Durham, North Carolina - The founder and chairman of a multinational investment company and a company consultant were sentenced to prison today for orchestrating a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions.
Greg E. Lindberg, 50, of Durham, North Carolina, the founder and chairman of Eli Global LLC (Eli Global) and the owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group (GBIG), was sentenced to 87 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Lindberg’s consultant, John D. Gray, 70, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was ordered to serve 30 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Lindberg and Gray were also ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount approximately $1.45 million held in accounts established by the defendants for the purpose of funneling the bribe payments.
On March 5, 2020, a federal jury convicted Lindberg and Gray of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds following an approximately three-week trial. U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. presided over the trial and today’s sentencing hearings.
Co-defendant, Robert Cannon Hayes, 74, of Concord, North Carolina, was also sentenced today to a one-year probationary term. Hayes previously pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.
“When Greg Lindberg and John Gray offered millions of dollars in bribes to the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner, they referred to their elaborately corrupt scheme as a ‘win-win’ – unaware that the FBI was watching and listening,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today, both men have been held accountable for their crimes, and their sentences underscore the Department of Justice's unyielding commitment to rooting out corruption wherever we find it.”
“Lindberg and his accomplices, driven by greed, devised an extensive political bribery scheme to illegally funnel millions of dollars to an elected official for the benefit of Lindberg’s business interests. To this day, Lindberg and Gray remain unremorseful and refuse to accept responsibility for their criminal actions. The severity of their brazen conduct is reflected in the Court’s sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina. “Bribery of a public official is far from a victimless crime. It is our duty to the American people to stop bad actors with deep pockets and unscrupulous intentions from wrecking the foundation on which this country proudly stands. To those that greedily seek to line their own pockets through deceit and fraud, I offer the following advice: Keep a travel toothbrush handy.”
“When the prison bars close behind Mr. Lindberg and Mr. Gray, they will hear the sound of justice, loud and clear,” said Special Agent in Charge John Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office. “The FBI will root out any and all forms of public corruption. We remain committed to ensuring those who attempt to interfere with the integrity of our democratic process pay the price.”
According to filed court documents, evidence presented at trial, and today’s sentencing hearings, in January 2018, the elected Commissioner (Commissioner) of the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) reported concerns to the FBI about political contributions and other requests made by Lindberg and Gray, and agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation that was initiated.
According to evidence presented at trial, from April 2017 to August 2018, Lindberg and Gray engaged in a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions for the purpose of causing the Commissioner to take official action favorable to Lindberg’s company, GBIG. Trial evidence established that Lindberg and Gray gave, offered, and promised the Commissioner millions of dollars in campaign contributions and other things of value, in exchange for the removal of NCDOI’s Senior Deputy Commissioner, who was responsible for overseeing regulation and the periodic examination of GBIG.
According to trial evidence, Lindberg, Gray and the Commissioner held numerous in-person meetings at different locations, including in Statesville, North Carolina, and had telephonic and other communications with each other, and others, to discuss Lindberg’s request for the personnel change in exchange for millions of dollars, and to devise a plan on how to funnel campaign contributions to the Commissioner anonymously. In order to conceal the bribery scheme, at the direction of Lindberg, two corporate entities were set-up to form an independent expenditure committee with the purpose of supporting the Commissioner’s re-election campaign, and Lindberg funded the entities with $1.5 million as promised to the Commissioner. In addition, at Lindberg and Gray’s direction, Hayes caused the transfer of $250,000 from monies Lindberg had previously contributed to a North Carolina state party of which Hayes was chairman, to the Commissioner’s re-election campaign.
According to admissions Hayes made in connection with his guilty plea, on or about Aug. 28, 2018, Hayes falsely stated to FBI agents that he had never spoken with the NCDOI Commissioner about personnel or personnel problems at NCDOI, or about Lindberg or Gray. Hayes further admitted that, at the time he made the materially false statements, Hayes knew that it was unlawful to lie to the FBI, and knew that his statements were false because Hayes had in fact spoken with the NCDOI Commissioner about Lindberg and Gray, and about Lindberg’s request that the Commissioner move certain personnel within NCDOI.
The FBI’s Charlotte field office investigated the case.
Trial Attorney James C. Mann of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William T. Stetzer and Dana O. Washington of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina prosecuted the case.