WASHINGTON – The former chairman of a North Carolina state political party pleaded guilty on Wednesday to making a false statement to the FBI in connection with a federal investigation into the attempted bribery of a North Carolina elected official. U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer presided over the plea hearing.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina and Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI Charlotte Field Office made the announcement.
On March 18, 2019, a criminal indictment was filed in the Western District of North Carolina, charging Robert Cannon Hayes, 74, of Concord, North Carolina, who at the time was Chairman of a state political party in North Carolina; Greg E. Lindberg, founder and Chairman of Eli Global LLC (Eli Global) and the owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group (GBIG); John D. Gray, a consultant for Lindberg and John V. Palermo, an Eli Global executive, for allegedly attempting to make improper campaign contributions to the elected Commissioner of Insurance (Commissioner) of the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI), in exchange for official personnel action favorable to Lindberg’s company, GBIG.
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. At the time that Hayes made the false statements, the FBI was investigating matters related to the attempted bribery of the Commissioner, therefore the defendant’s false statements were material to the investigation.
As Hayes admitted in court today, 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.
Lindberg, Gray, and Palermo are each charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and aiding and abetting. Their charges are still pending. The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI’s Charlotte Field Office is leading the investigation.
Trial Attorney James C. Mann of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Stetzer and Dana Washington of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are prosecuting the case.