Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene has been sentenced to seven years in prison and must pay a $100-thousand fine for the various fraud and corruption charges she pleaded guilty to earlier this year.
Greene, three other former county employees, and a contractor that did business with the county were also sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Asheville. All pleaded guilty following a wide-ranging federal investigation that started shortly after Greene retired in 2017.
Contractor Joseph Wiseman received the second longest prison sentence, just over three years (37 months) after pleading guilty to a bribery scheme involving Greene and former assistant county managers Jon Creighton and Mandy Stone. Wiseman was accused of offering trips and other gifts to the trio, at the same time firms he represented did about $15-million in business with the county. Stone was sentenced to just under three years (33 months) in prison and a $15-thousand fine, while Creighton got an 18-month sentence and a $25-thousand fine. Wiseman was fined $15-thousand as well, and may have to make further financial restitution because he has yet to settle a lawsuit filed by Buncombe County seeking to recoup money lost. The other three involved in that indictment have settled suits with the county.
Michael Greene, Wanda’s son and an information systems security officer for the county, received a six-month sentence for misusing Buncombe County issued credit cards to make personal purchases and $5-thousand fine. That case was the first of three separate indictments against Wanda Greene in 2018. The one involving Wiseman and her two assistant county managers was the last. In between, Wanda Greene was also charged with fraudulently purchasing life insurance policies with public funds, and then cashing two of them out just after she retired to pay for a real estate transaction in Tennessee.
Following Wednesday’s sentencing, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray released a statement calling the group “a reprehensible group of individuals, whose ethical obligation to their community took a back seat to personal gain. As the ringleader, Wanda Greene exploited her vast knowledge of the county’s operations to orchestrate various financial schemes, and solicited willing co-conspirators to carry out the fraud...Their actions destroyed the public’s trust in those whose ethical standards should have been beyond reproach. But today is their day of reckoning. Today, justice was served, as prison time is in their future for their deliberate violations of the law."
Murray notes the federal investigation into corruption in Buncombe County government is ongoing, as Wanda Greene and some of the others involved are cooperating with investigators. Since the guilty pleas, one further indictment was handed down. Former Buncombe County commissioner Ellen Frost faces charges she and Wanda Greene used county funds to further events at two equestrian centers - the Tryon Equestrian Center in Polk County and another in Florida. Investigators allege Frost had a personal stake in those events since she owns horses and stables some of them near the Tryon center. Her lawyers have denied the accusations. Wanda Greene was not charged in that indictment.