Friday, January 15, 2021

Former NC GOP Chair Robin Hayes Plead Guilty to Lying to FBI in Bribery Case

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Former North Carolina congressman and state Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes has agreed to plead guilty to lying to the FBI during a sting that netted indictments against Hayes, a wealthy Durham businessman and two associates.

A signed plea agreement has been filed with the court, and a plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Hayes isn’t pleading guilty to the underlying bribery charges in this case. Investor Greg Lindberg and the other co-defendants in this case initially pleaded not guilty to those charges. Hayes faced the additional charge of lying as FBI agents investigated whether Lindberg and his team tried to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.

According to a factual basis document filed with the court Friday in the case, which was signed by federal prosecutors as well as Hayes’ attorney: “On August 28, 2018, the defendant, Robert Cannon Hayes, falsely stated to federal agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBl), that he had never spoken with the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner about personnel or personnel problems at the North Carolina Department of Insurance or about Greg Lindberg or John Gray.”

The filing goes on to say that Hayes “knew that his statements were false because the defendant had in fact spoken with the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner about Greg Lindberg and John Gray, as well as Greg Lindberg’s request that the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner move certain personnel within the North Carolina Department of Insurance.”

Hayes, Lindberg, Gray and John Palermo, another Lindberg associate, were accused of trying to bribe Causey with up to $2 million in promised campaign donations if he would hire Palermo to regulate Lindberg’s insurance businesses, or at least take a troublesome department deputy out of the review process.

The department was asking a series of financial questions about Lindberg’s insurance businesses at the time.

Some money was funneled, federal prosecutors allege, through the North Carolina Republican Party to get around state campaign finance laws. Causey, who was cooperating with investigators, has turned over to the federal government roughly $250,000 that flowed to his re-election campaign through the party.

Hayes, who represented the 8th Congressional District from 1999 to 2009, didn’t resign as party chairman, but stepped away from day-to-day duties at party headquarters and didn’t seek re-election.

Lindberg, Gray and Palermo have all pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges against them, and a trial may start in November. Lindberg asked the court earlier this month to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that the things he asked Causey to do didn’t rise to an “official act” needed to justify a bribery charge.

Lindberg’s legal team also suggested severing his trial from the other defendants’ trials so it could begin in November. Attorneys for the others had asked for more time to prepare. The court has not made a decision yet.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office opposes the dismissal, calling Lindberg’s interpretation of precedents set by other federal bribery cases “novel and erroneous.”

Lindberg, who owns dozens of businesses and, at least until recently, lived in Durham, rose from political obscurity the last few years to become North Carolina’s most generous political donor. He’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s largest donor and a major donor for both the state Republican and Democratic parties.

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