October 2, 2019 / 7:46 PM / 14 days ago

Former North Carolina Republican Party chairman pleads guilty in bribery case

(Reuters) - The former chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party on Wednesday pleaded guilty to lying to federal law enforcement agents during an investigation into an attempted bribery scheme of a state official, the U.S. Justice Department said.

FILE PHOTO: North Carolina congressman Robin Hayes views the damage caused in a firebomb attack on local offices of the North Carolina Republican Party in Hillsborough, North Carolina, U.S. October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo

Robert “Robin” Hayes, 74, along with business executive Greg Lindberg and insurance executives John Gray and John Palermo were charged in March with bribery and conspiracy in Statesville, North Carolina. The four men were accused of trying to bribe state insurance commissioner Mike Causey.

Hayes was also charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All four men pled not guilty at the time.

After reaching a plea agreement last week with federal prosecutors, Hayes pleaded guilty during a court hearing on Wednesday, according to online court records.

Hayes admitted in court that he had made false statements on Aug. 28, 2018 to FBI agents when he told them that he had never spoken about personnel at the commission or about Lindberg or Gray with Causey, the DOJ said.

Hayes could face up to six months in prison, but federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence at the low end of the applicable range after he agreed to cooperate, according to a court document published online by WRAL-TV, a local television station in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The court did not set a sentencing date on Wednesday.

According to the indictment, the four men promised to spend millions of dollars on Causey’s re-election if he would remove an insurance regulator that oversaw companies under Lindberg’s control.

They said they would set up independent campaign committees that would spend $1.5 million on Causey’s re-election bid and funnel another $250,000 through the state Republican Party.

Lindberg is the founder of investment company Eli Global and the owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group, which controls several insurance companies.

The charges against Lindberg, Gray and Palermo remain pending.

Hayes represented the 8th Congressional District from 1999 to 2009. After the indictment, he relinquished most of his day-to-day duties with the state party and did not seek re-election as chairman.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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