Fraud of the Month – Sept.

Greg Lindberg is a North Carolina billionaire who made his money using dubious business practices. That set Lindberg on a path to try and bribe the state’s insurance commissioner to ease up regulatory heat on his operations. Instead, commissioner Mike Causey turned to the FBI, had himself wired to record their conversations, and exposed Lindberg’s illegal gambit.

Here’s how the failed bribery attempt went down:

Lindberg began buying insurance companies in 2014, with a particular interest in the large amount of assets insurance companies held in order to satisfy claims. He then used those purchased companies’ existing assets to provide loans to other companies he controlled — totalling an estimated $2 billion. Much of these “loans” were used to expand his personal holdings.

Lindberg’s first insurance acquisition was an Alabama burial policy insurer. But Lindberg could not loan out the volume of assets he intended under Alabama state law. This did not discourage Lindberg, who relocated the business and its assets to North Carolina. He then established a relationship with the state’s insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin. He struck a deal with Goodwin’s administration to lend 40% of his burial policy assets to affiliated business ventures rather than the customary 10%.

Under this special arrangement, Lindberg rapidly expanded his acquisition efforts. The profitability of his financial services businesses — which were the loan recipients — surged. During this expansion period, Lindberg became a prolific donor in North Carolina politics. His financial patronage was largely directed towards Goodwin, a Democrat, and Republican lawmakers from 2016 to 2018.

Lindberg’s business model unsustainable

Lindberg’s “unique” business model was unsustainable. He often exceeded the 40% arrangement he had with the Department of Insurance. Regulators began to worry that the businesses he was acquiring and leveraging couldn’t meet their claim obligations.

In late 2017 Lindberg and an associate approached the North Carolina GOP Chair, Robin Hayes. They asked for a meeting with the new North Carolina insurance commissioner, Mike Causey. He’d narrowly defeated Goodwin in the General Election.

Lindberg pitched Causey on a plan to replace Causey’s deputy, Jackie Obusek, with Lindberg’s associate in exchange for large sums of cash contributions to Causey’s campaign account. Lindberg was upset with Obusek, who was reigning in Lindberg’s asset acquisition and diversion enterprise that had grown his personal net worth from $340 million in 2013 to $1.7 billion in 2017.

The unsettling bribe proposition prompted Causey to contact federal law enforcement. Causey agreed to wear a wire for the FBI to record Lindberg’s bribery attempts. During the operation, Lindberg donated $250,000 to the North Carolina GOP to be steered toward Causey with Hayes’ assistance.

Firms placed in receivership

A federal grand jury indicted Lindberg and his co-conspirators in March 2019. By this time, Lindberg had acquired more than 100 companies. However, his acquisition run had come to an end — with the insurance department  placing several of his companies in receivership due to liquidity concerns. That same year Gov. Roy Cooper signed what was commonly known as the “Lindberg bill,” which formally capped asset loans to affiliated loans at 10%.

Lindberg went to trial in February 2020 and was convicted by a jury on conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery. Causey was sentenced in August to more than seven years in prison.

Lindberg sought a lenient sentence. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn wouldn’t hear of it.

“What kind of deterrence are we going to have if millionaires are allowed to pay seven-figure bribes?” Cogburn told the courtroom.

“We have a serious breach of the law. We’ve got to deter people who think it’s a good idea to bribe officials in North Carolina.”

About the author: Jim Quiggle is senior director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

“18 hr hostile takeover. Became POW, during this tour. Beaten, shot, head injury, tortured. Hospitalized in Germany for injuries sustained. Crushed hand. Shrapnel,” the Chalfont, Pa. man wrote in applying for federal veterans medical benefits.

The physical and emotional trauma were overwhelming, he wrote. Meleski claimed he had post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries during his life-and-death escape from the supposed terrorists back in the 1980s.

Yet none of it happened. Meleski invented the elaborate fairytale to steal nearly $300,000 in healthcare treatment and $2,271 in prescription medicines from the Veterans Administration. His haul included monthly disability checks.

His scam is called Stolen Valor — inventing or embellishing military service.

Never served in military

In fact Meleski never served a day in the military. He lived in New Jersey during his claimed Beirut heroics.

Meleski took pains to invent convincing details. He injured his left knee jumping out of a window carrying a dead SEAL comrade on his back, he said. On top of that, Meleski said he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he leapt through the window.

The ordeal was so traumatic that he couldn’t speak for three months, he insisted.

Meleski even was awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry in action, he lied.

The story was convincing enough. As a former POW supposedly suffering from PTSD, Meleski was given priority over real veterans for healthcare. He received free treatment with no copays or premiums.

Meleski used the same phony military record to steal Social Security disability benefits. To lend that story credibility, Meleski included the obituaries of real Navy SEALs he lied that he served with.

Convicted of arson

While living in New Jersey during his claimed Beirut heroics, Meleski carved yet another trail of crime. He was convicted of arson four times, receiving 19 years total in prison. In one case, he set fire to a home where a priest and several nuns devoted their lives to solitary prayer.

Up to 68 years in federal prison awaits Meleski when he’s sentenced for his latest crime.

“Meleski faked a record as a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said.

“Everything about this case is profoundly offensive. Our veterans fought for the freedoms we hold dear, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. But holding individuals like Meleski accountable for their crimes is one small way that we can honor our veterans’ service.”

About the author: Jim Quiggle is senior director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

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We are mobilizing every resource at our disposal and collaborating with national, state and local partners to develop comprehensive and coordinated warnings about developing insurance scams. Fortunately, there are practical steps everyone can take to curb the spread of COVID-19-related fraud and support each other. We encourage you to share information on this page with your neighbors and colleagues and report fraud when you see it. 

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health challenge. But with everyone working to battle its transmission, the anti-fraud community will prevail against fraud and come through this stronger than ever.


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