Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene faces 23 new charges including wire fraud, federal program fraud, and money laundering. Those charges were announced in a federal indictment this week. They're in addition to the fraud, conspiracy, and embezzlement charges that were already filed against her in April for allegedly misusing county-owned credit cards to purchase personal goods. Her son Michael, also a former Buncombe County employee, was also charged in that case.
In the new indictment, prosecutors allege Greene used $2.3 million in county money to purchase life insurance policies for herself, her son Michael, eight other county employees, and an additional annuity policy for the county emergency services director who was not eligible for a life insurance plan. The money for those policies according to the indictment came from a budget amendment county commissioners approved to pay for settlements for two federal civil rights lawsuits Buncombe County was facing. Though not mentioned in the indictment, the Citizen-Times reports those lawsuits were brought by two men convicted for the 2000 murder of Walter Bowman in his Fairview home. Robert Wilcoxson and Kenneth Kagonyera, both of Asheville, were exonerated in 2011 for that murder and had their convictions vacated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The Citizen-Times reports Wilcoxson received a finanical settlement of $5.125 million, while Kagonyera settled for $515-thousand.
At a closed session county board meeting on August 4th, 2015, commissioners approved a budget amendment of $8.59 million to be transferred from the county's general fund to its 'Fund 80.' That fund is designated for 'claims/benefit payments/insurance & bonds.' Prosecutors allege Greene inflated the amount of that transfer to well above what was needed to pay out the settlements. She's accused of using the leftover money from that transfer to buy the life insurance policies. The indictment alleges she was in contact with a Charlotte-based insurance agent to buy those policies, even emailing the agent from her phone during the August 4th, 2015 meeting, saying "Just waiting for a signal we are a go." Greene retired at the end of June 2017 after 20 years on the job. Shortly after, prosecutors allege Greene cashed out two of those life insurance policies, receiving $396-thousand. Greene allegedly then wired $155-thousand of that money to a Tennessee law firm for the purposes of a real estate closing.
The new indictment notes Buncombe County commissioners were unaware of Greene's actions regarding the life insurance policies. Tuesday night, shortly after the new charges were announced, the county announced a civil lawsuit against both Greenes as well as anyone else who 'participated in or profited from' Wanda Greene's alleged unlawful actions. Citizen-Times reporter Jennifer Bowman says the nine employees that Greene opened life insurance policies or annuties for have voluntarily reassigned those to the county. She adds Michael Greene was given a similar opportunity, but has yet to respond to it.
Shortly after Wanda Greene retired, federal authorities confirmed they were investigating her but would not elaborate for what. In April, she and her son Michael were charged with purchasing more than $200-thousand worth of personal goods over a 10-year period with Buncombe County-owned credit cards. Those purchases included everything from food to DVD's to cell phone accessories to clothing to gift cards.