Feds seize nearly $1.5 million from accounts of PAC tied to mega-donor indicted in political bribery case

Feds seize nearly $1.5 million from accounts of PAC tied to mega-donor indicted in political bribery case
A composite photo of NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes and Greg Lindberg each leaving federal court on Tuesday, March 2, 2019. (Source: Corey Schmidt)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The FBI seized nearly $1.5 million from a political action committee tied to mega-donor Greg Lindberg, who was indicted in April on charges related to an alleged political bribery scheme.

The indictment accuses Lindberg of trying to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in exchange for Causey firing a senior regulator at the agency who has oversight of the businesses Lindberg owned at the time.

Causey reported concerns about Lindberg’s behavior to the FBI and cooperated with federal investigators, including by making secret recordings of meeting with Lindberg.

In addition to Lindberg, the indictment charged then-North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes, who served five terms in Congress; John Gray, an employee who worked for Lindberg; and John Palermo, a former county-level Republican Party leader who also worked for Lindberg.

In addition to working for Lindberg, Palermo ran a political action committee called the North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Alliance.

Campaign finance records for the PAC filed with the North Carolina State Board of Elections list just one contribution: from Lindberg for $500,000.

In an affidavit filed with a judge to obtain warrants to seize money out of the PAC’s two accounts, an FBI agent detailed nearly three times that amount of money across two bank accounts registered to the PAC.

The warrants to seize the money were originally in late March, after the grand jury indictment, and were executed in early April, one week after the indictment was unsealed. The seizure warrants were unsealed Friday.

According to the affidavit, one account held approximately $979,128.63 and a second account held $475,629.82.

“Your Affiant has probably cause to believe that the Funds constitute or are derived from proceeds of conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1349 and/or bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 666,” the FBI agent who obtained the seizure warrants wrote.

“Therefore, the Funds are subject to seizure for civil and criminal forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 981(a)(1)(C) (civil forfeiture of proceeds); 28 U.S.C. 2461(c) (rendering criminal forfeiture available in any case in which civil forfeiture is also available); 18 U.S.C. 981(b) (civil seizure warrants); and 21 U.S.C. 853(f) (criminal seizure warrants),” the affidavit continued.

Palermo reported the seizure of $475,629.82 by federal authorities in a campaign finance filing with the NCSBE this week. That filing was first reported by WRAL.

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There is no explanation in NCSBE records where the other $979,128.63 came from.

But the affidavit filed with the seizure warrants said the two accounts both received deposits on the same day: June 11, 2018.

The affidavit refers to the money as “crime proceeds in this case and were used as part of the alleged conspiracy to bribe Causey.

Lindberg, Hayes and Palermo have all previously declined to comment on the allegations made by federal prosecutors in this case.

Their trial is currently scheduled to begin in mid-September.

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