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Lindberg battles $600 million judgment in state court as federal bribery retrial lies ahead

Attorney Christopher Browning argues at the NC Court of Appeals. (Image from Court of Appeals YouTube channel)

Roughly one month before he’s scheduled to return to federal court on bribery and fraud charges, former top NC political donor Greg Lindberg faced a state Court of Appeals hearing Wednesday in a separate dispute. Lindberg is battling an insurance company’s effort to secure a $600 million judgment against him.

“I don’t think it’s unfair that when we have a $600 million judgment, where somebody has siphoned off money from a trust account, we are asking for help from the state Superior Court to proceed with a prompt execution” of the judgment, said attorney Christopher Browning. He represented the Universal Life Insurance Company, or ULICO, in oral arguments before a three-judge appellate panel.

ULICO has said in court filings that it “stands as Lindberg’s largest judgment creditor.” The company says its judgment stems from Lindberg “draining” a trust fund designed to make annuity payments for policyholders in Puerto Rico.

Lindberg is appealing multiple 2022 orders from Durham County Superior Court Judge Michael O’Foghludha involving the dispute with ULICO.

“They have our money,” Browning said of Lindberg and his businesses. “We have a judgment that allows us to enforce the ability to get our money.”

“it doesn’t impact his ability to go out and earn a living, to be in a job, to be pursuing a craft or a trade,” Browning added. “He is saying he can’t earn a living because of instead of paying our judgment, he wants to spend it on other things.”

“He has fought us since May 2, 2022, when we had our judgment in place,” Browning said. “He has held us at bay.”

A federal magistrate judge determined that “Greg Lindberg has dissipated his assets” and that he should post a bond of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to block any legal proceedings involving ULICO, Browning argued. He accused Lindberg of wanting “to drag this out as long as possible.”

Attorney Matthew Leerburg, representing Lindberg, argued that O’Foghluda’s orders have blocked Lindberg from paying any bills, including attorney’s fees. “Mr. Lindberg doesn’t want to delay,” Leerburg said. “He’s making zero dollars from his companies. He can’t pay his own attorneys. There’s no incentive to delay. There’s an incentive to appeal right away.”

Leerburg referenced Global Growth, the Lindberg company that “runs and ultimately owns a hundred companies operating around the world — real companies with real employees doing real business around the world. That’s Mr. Lindberg’s job. He just can’t get paid for it.”

Lindberg and ULICO offer contrasting assessments of how many limited liability corporations are tied to Lindberg. At one point, attorney Leerburg referenced 73 LLCs. Browning argued that Lindberg has a “direct ownership interest” in 107 other LLCs, with indirect ownership of 410 more.

In a separate state court proceeding involving Lindberg, ULICO claimed that Lindberg owes at least $1.9 billion to creditors.

As Appeals Court Judges John Tyson, Jeff Carpenter, and Toby Hampson wrestle with this dispute, Lindberg is scheduled to return a federal courtroom on Nov. 6.

There he will face a retrial on bribery and fraud charges. Federal authorities argue that Lindberg attempted to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with “more than $2 million” after Causey’s 2016 election. Causey worked with federal law enforcement officials to collect evidence against Lindberg and associates.

Lindberg was convicted in March 2020 and was sentenced to a seven-year federal prison term. But the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out that conviction in June 2022. Appellate judges ruled that mistakes in Judge Max Cogburn’s jury instructions had “infected” Lindberg’s convictions.

A second federal trial related to a separate 13-count indictment against Lindberg has been delayed. Originally scheduled this summer, that case will now be pushed back until after the bribery and fraud retrial.

There is some question about whether the Nov. 6 retrial will move forward as planned. A co-defendant in the federal case, John Gray, has faced a series of issues related to his legal representation. Those issues already have prompted one postponement of the retrial.

Gray’s current lawyers have asked to step away from the case, but US Attorney Dena King’s office has objected to that request. A status conference in the bribery retrial case is scheduled Oct. 13 in Asheville.

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