Michael Greene Pleads Guilty - What That Means For The Case Against His Mother Wanda

Jul 26, 2018

UPDATE - FRIDAY 12:30 P.M. - Michael Greene plead guilty Friday morning in federal court in Asheville to one charge of conspiracy, related the charges that he and his mother Wanda Greene misused Buncombe County-owned credit cards for thousands of dollars of personal purchases over a 10-year period.  He faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250-thousand fine when he's sentenced at a later date.  Michael Greene has also been ordered to forfeit $11, 732.21 that prosecutors say represents the amount of "proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, from the offenses pleaded to."

EARLIER STORY  

Michael Greene is expected to plead guilty Friday morning to one charge filed against him.  He worked in Buncombe County government alongside his mother Wanda, who served as Buncombe County manager for 20 years.  She retired in June 2017.  Michael Greene left his county job soon after his mother's retirement.  Both face numerous conspiracy and fraud charges for allegedly misusing Buncombe County-owned credit cards to make personal purchases over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2017.  Wanda Greene faces an additional embezzlement charge in that case, and was indicted a second time on charges she fraudlently purchased life insurance policies with county funds.  BPR's Matt Bush talked with Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jennifer Bowman, who covers Buncombe County government, about the expected guilty plea and what it means for the case against not just Michael Greene but his mother Wanda - as well as the possibility that more charges could be forthcoming.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS -

What charge will Michael Greene be pleading guilty to Friday - "It's only one charge that he'll be pleading guilty to.  There's still the wire fraud charges, but it looks like this plea deal just deals with the conspiracy to defraud the government charge.  It relates to the use of credit cards that were assigned to Wanda Greene's subordinates.  In a court filing, it does say (Michael Greene) will not dispute the fact that he was aware that his mother was using those cards, and that he had a photocopy of one of those cards that was found in his desk by federal investigators."

How does this affect the rest of the case against Michael Greene - "We'll see Friday.  You still have the additional charges, and the charges against Wanda Greene (in the same case).  The second indictment (against her) alleges she used county funds to buy life insurance policies.  Michael Greene was not indicted in that case, although he is mentioned as one of the recipients of those life insurance policies.  How this all affects his mother's case remains to be seen, but I think it's safe to say Michael Greene was small potatoes for lack of better words.  There are certainly more heavier, more damning accusations against his mother."

Jennifer's reporting in the Citizen-Times this week has focused on parts of the case that Buncombe County won't release publicly and officials won't discuss.  What are they? - "What we have learned recently is that the $2.3 million (allegedly used by Wanda Greene to fraudlently purchase the life insurance policies) was not reported as taxable income as it should have been.  That leaves an important question of how and/or why did that happen.  The county says it's looking into that.  And interim manager George Wood indicated looking in to how much county employees knew throughout the process.  We heard from current Buncombe County board of commissioners chair Brownie Newman that he initially thought that Wanda Greene did mislead them but that (commissioners) learned more throughout the process, and that he's more interested in knowing that."

What did Wanda Greene's lawyer say about the future of the investigation into Buncombe County government - "We saw a court filing from Thomas Amburgey, one of Wanda Greene's attorneys, last week in which he asked to delay her trial and the docket call and the status conference which was eventually granted.  In this court filing, he says the defense has been informed that additional defendants and additional indictments unrelated to the current indictments against Wanda Greene are forthcoming.  That's all the information.  But what I think is also interesting, and I don't know if it's related, the county has been awfully quiet about Mandy Stone leaving at the beginning of this month (she served as interim county manager for 11 months following Wanda Greene's retirement).  She left abruptly and she was really hailed (at the beginning of her tenure) as being really well-liked by the commissioners.  That was not apparent as she left.   There's been little explanation for that.  We saw that she stopped communicating with her county email the day before she announced her retirement.  They won't say whether she's under federal investigation, which means they're not denying it either."