Court orders Lindberg to remain under GPS monitoring while awaiting new trial

United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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  • A federal judge in North Carolina has rejected former top political donor Greg Lindberg's request to end his GPS monitoring. Lindberg is awaiting a new trial on federal fraud and bribery charges.
  • The U.S. government considers Lindberg a flight risk. Lindberg cited his growing family of young children to rebut government arguments.

A federal court has rejected former top N.C. political donor Greg Lindberg’s request to drop GPS monitoring while he awaits a new trial. The federal government plans to retry Lindberg on charges of bribery and fraud in connection with his campaign donations.

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued an order Thursday in Lindberg’s case. Cogburn explained his decision to keep Lindberg under satellite monitoring.

“The concerns previously expressed by the Government continue to exist,” Cogburn wrote. “Mr. Lindberg now lives in Tampa, Florida, where, according to the Government, he has ready access to both his ocean-going yacht and airplane.”

“The Government has also indicated that Lindberg continues to have significant overseas business interest and assets available to him outside of the United States,” Cogburn added. “As for Defendant’s contention that he has no incentive to flee because he has a growing family with an additional child on the way, the Court is not persuaded.”

“Here, Lindberg’s knowledge of an ongoing criminal investigation into his business practices and the potential for additional criminal charges, as well as the knowledge that he was previously convicted by a jury which resulted in his going to federal prison to serve an 87-month sentence, and the recent civil action filed against him by the SEC provide an incentive for him to flee,” the judge concluded. “The Court finds that location monitoring is a reasonable restriction in light of Lindberg’s motivation and ability to flee.”

A Nov. 8 court filing from Lindberg disputed the government’s argument that he’s a flight risk.

“Mr. Lindberg lives in a permanent home in Tampa with his significant other and five of his children — all under the age of three, and two under the age of one,” according to the brief. “He regularly sees his other children in Tampa when they visit him on a monthly basis. He is also expecting another child in March of 2023.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out bribery and fraud convictions against Lindberg in June. Appellate judges cited mistakes in the trial judge’s jury instructions that “infected” Lindberg’s convictions.

The Appeals Court ordered a new trial for Lindberg, who had been serving a seven-year federal prison sentence based on his 2020 convictions.

At one time, Lindberg was the state’s highest-spending election donor.

Authorities contend that Lindberg attempted to bribe N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey after Causey’s 2016 election. Working with the FBI, Causey recorded his conversations with Lindberg. Among those conversations, Causey later testified that a Lindberg associate had promised $110,000 of a $500,000 donation to the state Republican Party would go to Causey’s campaign. Lindberg also promised to hold a fundraiser for Causey.

Causey’s cooperation with federal authorities helped lead to the charges against Lindberg.

The case centered on Lindberg’s request that Causey replace a state Insurance Department official whose job involved interaction with Lindberg’s insurance-related businesses. Linking the campaign cash to that request prompted federal charges of honest services fraud and federal funds bribery.

Lindberg’s appeal involved questions about whether the personnel change in Causey’s department would have constituted an “official act” that would have been a necessary element of the criminal charges.

“Here, although the district court properly defined the term ‘official act,’ … it then instructed the jury in no uncertain terms ‘that the removal or replacement of a [S]enior [D]eputy [C]ommissioner by the [C]ommissioner would constitute an official act,’” wrote Chief Judge Roger Gregory. “In doing so, we find that the district court impermissibly took an element of the crime out of the hands of the jury and violated the defendant’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.”

That mistake was enough to vacate Lindberg’s conviction, according to Gregory and his colleagues. “Here, we cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury verdict would have been the same absent the error.”

The investigation also led to criminal charges against Robin Hayes, who served at the time as chairman of the N.C. Republican Party. Authorities say Hayes helped facilitate the transaction between Lindberg and the GOP. Hayes pleaded guilty in 2019 to lying to federal investigators. He secured a pardon from former President Donald Trump in January 2021.

Cogburn’s Nov. 10 order offered further details of the federal government’s concerns about Lindberg dating back to 2019.

“Counsel for the Government pointed out that, at the time, Lindberg had a private aircraft, a 214-foot ocean-going yacht registered in the Cayman Islands, and 115 foreign bank accounts, including accounts in Canada, India, Ireland, Malta, the Philippines, England, and the Cayman Islands,” Cogburn wrote. “Counsel for the Government continued that Lindberg purchased his vessel within 30 days of being contacted by the FBI in connection with this case and that he shortly thereafter appeared to be liquidating his assets by listing his residences in North Carolina, Key West, and Idaho for sale. … Counsel concluded that ‘Mr. Lindberg has the resources to flee and flee well, unlike the vast majority of defendants who appear in front of [the court].’”

In addition to the fraud and bribery charges, Lindberg learned in August about a new federal complaint from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accuses Lindberg of raiding his own insurance companies in a “massive fraudulent scheme.”