- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s largest political donor in recent years and two associates are heading to trial on corruption-related charges nearly a year after a federal indictment was filed against them.

Greg E. Lindberg, an insurance company magnate and investor, along with Lindberg consultant John Gray and former Lindberg company employee John Palermo, were expected in Charlotte federal court on Tuesday.

Jury selection will occur before opening statements and evidence are presented in the case.

Federal prosecutors contend the three participated in a scheme to bribe elected North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with up to $2 million in campaign money so scrutiny of Lindberg’s businesses would ease.

Causey, a Republican, told law enforcement voluntarily about what was happening and agreed to cooperate with authorities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the fraud conspiracy and bribery counts. Their attorneys wrote in court filings that their clients’ actions weren’t criminal and that Causey tried to entrap them.

A fourth person indicted - former state GOP chairman and ex-U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes - accepted a plea agreement late last year and agreed to help prosecutors.

Lindberg gave more than $5 million since 2016 to North Carolina candidate and party committees and independent expenditure groups.

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