Major North Carolina political donor convicted again


A major North Carolina political donor and his associate have been convicted a second time of attempting to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner to secure preferential regulatory treatment for his insurance business.

A federal jury convicted insurance magnate Greg Lindberg and former consultant John Gray on Wednesday of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and conspiracy to commit “honest services wire fraud” — when a person through a bribe seeks to deprive citizens of their right to honest services by a government official.

Both were convicted of the same crimes in 2020. In 2022, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, vacated convictions for Lindberg and Gray and ordered new trials, ruling that the trial judge gave jurors misleading instructions before they began deliberations. Soon after that ruling, Lindberg was released from an Alabama prison where he had been serving a seven-year sentence.

The retrial began last week in federal court held by U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn, who also presided over the 2020 trial.

“The defendants planned and executed an intricate scheme involving substantial campaign contributions to an elected official in exchange for favorable treatment,” western North Carolina U.S. Attorney Dena King said in a news release. “This was not a lapse in judgment. It was a calculated bribery attempt and a blatant violation of federal law.”

Lindberg and Gray were among four people indicted in 2019, accused of trying to give $1.5 million to Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s election campaign in exchange for the removal of an insurance official who would be in charge of regulating Lindberg’s company. Before the indictment, Lindberg had given millions of dollars to North Carolina candidate and party committees and independent expenditure groups.

Their codefendant, former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, pleaded guilty in 2019 to making a false statement to FBI agents conducting an investigation while he was state Republican Party chairman.

He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and received probation. The federal government said Hayes had agreed to help funnel money going to the state GOP to Causey’s 2020 reelection campaign. President Donald Trump later pardoned Hayes.

Causey wasn’t accused of wrongdoing. He alerted authorities and recorded conversations that served as the basis of the 2019 indictments against Lindberg and Gray.

The fourth person indicted was acquitted at trial.

At the 2020 trial, Lindberg’s lawyers argued in part that he didn’t commit a crime and that he was entrapped by Causey’s participation with authorities.

Lindberg attorney Brandon McCarthy said late Thursday “we were genuinely surprised by the verdict. We will continue to fight,”

“We thought there was straightforward and clear evidence that both Mr. Gray and Mr. Lindberg acted at all times in good faith and without any criminal intent,” Gray lawyer Steve Cash said in a separate email, adding that Gray’s team was evaluating options.

Last year, Lindberg was indicted on separate federal criminal charges stemming from accusations that he conspired to skim large amounts of money from his insurance companies, then lied about it to regulators to hide the scheme with two co-conspirators. The counts in that case include wire fraud, conspiracy and making false insurance business statements to regulators. A trial on these matters has been delayed while awaiting the retrial.

Lindberg and Gray face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A sentencing date has not been set.

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