Sunday, April 18, 2021

Insurance magnate Greg Lindberg pleads for leniency in bribery case


Hours after prosecutors published a memorandum recommending a 14-year sentence for his conviction in a political bribery scheme, Durham entrepreneur Greg Lindberg fired back his response.

The memo claims a sentence of 12 to 24 months is fair – far below the prosecutors’ recommendation for the entrepreneur behind Global Growth, formerly known as Eli Global.

His attorneys, via a 36-page response memo, said leniency was warranted “because the magnitude of the loss calculation dramatically overstates Mr. Lindberg’s culpability.”

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The memo also points to “Mr. Lindberg’s lifelong record of upstanding citizenship and charitable acts, his significant parental duties, his low risk of recidivism” and other factors.

Lindberg’s attorneys argue that 12 to 24 months is more in line with the “median range for bribery offenses in 2019 nationwide.”

The memo also claims Lindberg has already suffered from the “harm and stress to his business.”

Lindberg, the memo claims, has lived a life of service. After re-learning to walk following a successful brain tumor operation in 2009, Lindberg grew his business from the ground up and “remained civic minded” by investing in charitable causes. Those include the Special Olympics of North Carolina, where he pledged a $50,000 donation earlier this year, the memo claims.

The memo also references character letters including that of Jeffrey Fisher, CEO of Unique Places, who called Lindberg “a beacon of inspiration.”

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Lindberg attorneys did not respond to requests to comment on the situation.

In their memo Wednesday, prosecutors called the scheme “brazen” and unworthy of leniency.

“Neither this case, nor the defendants themselves, present unique circumstances warranting different or lenient treatment,” their memo noted.

Prosecutors recommended that Lindberg face 168 months in prison and a fine of $250,000. Lindberg was found guilty of trying to bribe the North Carolina Department of Insurance in exchange for preferential treatment of his companies.

Prosecutors recommended that John Gray, also found guilty in March, serve 10 years in prison and pay $35,000.

“The defendants offered a $2 million bribe to buy the elected Commissioner of Insurance and to choose their own regulator,” stated the document, signed by Dana Washington, assistant U.S. attorney.

“They attempted to cloak their scheme with the appearance of legitimate campaign contributions. And even now, after being caught, confronted with explicit recordings of their criminal conduct, and convicted at trial, the defendants have refused to accept any responsibility … instead blaming the very public official who they tried to bribe.”

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Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 19 for both Lindberg and Gray.

In the memo, Wednesday, prosecutors repeatedly argued against leniency.

While Lindberg had argued that prosecutors should take into account his status as “the only parent of an infant son” in sentencing, the federal government flatly rejected that argument, stating that single parenthood is not “extraordinary.”

Prosecutors also pushed back against Lindberg’s argument of entrapment.

“The defendants were not entrapped into engaging this bribery scheme … they enthusiastically executed the bribe,” the memo claimed.

Nor did prosecutors buy Gray’s attorney’s characterization that his “role in the offense was not for pecuniary gain,” noting that Lindberg paid Gray $450,000 for his consulting services between August of 2017 and March of 2018.

“While Lindberg initiated the bribery scheme and clearly had the most to gain financially from it, Gray enthusiastically worked to ensure its success from the first day to its last,” the memo alleged.

Prosecutors also called for three years of supervised release for both defendants, saying punishment was critical in deterring others from following suit.

Both Lindberg and Gray have maintained their innocence through their attorneys. And Lindberg, in addition to making disparaging remarks about North Carolina Insurance Commissioner (and witness for the prosecution) Mike Causey in press releases, is suing Causey in federal court.

The memorandum states that the sentences “should reflect the seriousness of their conduct, which was as dangerous as it was brazen.”

A third defendant, former North Carolina GOP leader Robin Hayes, has pleaded guilty in the case. And, accordingly, a lighter sentence is being recommended in a separate memorandum.

Hayes, court documents allege, lied to the FBI, even after being confronted with recorded evidence.

“And he did so to protect himself and his political associates from an ongoing federal investigation,” a sentencing memorandum filed Monday in Hayes’ case reads.

But, as Hayes has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government, prosecutors are recommending just probation and no jail time.

A fourth defendant, John Palermo, was acquitted in March.

The sentencing guidelines come days after Lindberg saw his motions for acquittal and a new trial denied by a federal judge.


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