A federal grand jury announced an indictment of former Buncombe County commissioner Ellen Frost Tuesday afternoon. Frost is accused of participating in a scheme with former county manager Wanda Greene to use $575-thousand in county funds to sponsor and promote events at two equestrian centers not located in Buncombe County. The indictment alleges that as a horse owner herself, Frost had a personal interest in promoting and supporting those venues. Frost and Greene allegedly tried to cover up the expenditures by claiming the money was spent to advertise the Asheville Regional Airport at equestrian events.
Frost, a Democrat, was first elected a county commissioner in 2012. She was re-elected in 2014, and declined to seek re-election last year. Frost faces 11 charges - five each for federal program fraud and mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud. Starting in 2014 and running through 2017, Frost and Greene are accused of a scheme to use $575-thousand in funds that were allocated to Buncombe County's Economic Development program to support and promote equestrian events and enterprises at venues not located in the county - including the Tryon Equestrian Center in Polk County, North Carolina, and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida. The expenditures were allegedly done without the knowledge of the full board of commissioners.
Acording to the indictment, the first awarness by other board members of the payments occurred in August of 2016, thanks to a report in the Asheville Citizen-Times, which featured a photo of a large display check made out to the winner of the 'Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase", which took place at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida. The Asheville Regional Airport is not governed nor funded by Buncombe County.
According to the indictment, Frost owned horses that were stabled at a Polk County farm, near the Tryon Equestrian Center. Some of those horses were shown at events at the Tryon Center, as well as at other facilities. The mail fraud charges she faces each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the federal program fraud charges each carry a 10 years in prison maximum penalty, and the conspiracy charge a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Greene plead guilty to a long list of fraud and conspiracy charges after being indicted three separate times in 2018. Though named as a co-conspirator in this newest indictment, she does not face any additional charges. Greene retired in 2017 after 20 years as county manager. Two of her former assistant managers, Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone, also plead guilty to federal charges. Greene's son Michael, also a former county employee, plead guilty last year as well. All four await sentencing next month.