A federal indictment released on April 5 paints Wanda Greene as a person who loved to shop — especially when Buncombe County was picking up the tab. Between 2007 and Aug. 12, 2017, the former county manager and her son Michael Greene (who was also employed by the county as an information systems security officer) racked up over $200,000 in improper personal purchases on county purchase cards, the indictment charges.
The purchases outlined in the indictment seem typical of the items that fill middle-class Americans’ shopping carts at stores like Target and Sam’s Club. Some of Greene’s alleged indulgences at taxpayer expense included OxiClean, fleece capri pants, wine, car tires, cell phones, a heated lotion dispenser and Walmart lingerie. Examples of Michael Greene’s personal purchases include a Nintendo Switch gaming system, a Fitbit, an Oral-B electric toothbrush, DVDs and an oriental rug mouse pad.
The indictment provides the clearest look yet at the charges faced by Wanda Greene since Mountain Xpress first broke the story of the federal investigation into her actions as county manager on Aug. 16 (avl.mx/411). Greene retired from her position on June 30, 2017; Michael Greene, who served as an information systems security officer for the county, resigned in August.
Charges filed against Wanda and Michael Greene include “conspiracy to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud or misapply Buncombe County funds and wire fraud offenses.” Greene is also charged with embezzling public funds and aiding and abetting such embezzlement.
Wanda Greene allegedly used her P-card to purchase thousands of dollars worth of items from Target, T.J. Maxx, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and other stores. The indictment says she also used her P-card to purchase $21,760 worth of gift cards between Dec. 6, 2007 and Jan. 30, 2011.
As county manager, Greene had the authority to review and approve her own P-card purchases. Her son, the indictment says, was also allowed to review and approve his own P-card purchases, which was unusual for an employee at his level.
According to the indictment, the county’s internal auditor conducted an audit in January 2009 and determined that Michael Greene was making inappropriate purchases on a county credit card. The auditor sent a report to the county’s finance director and the county manager, Wanda Greene, for official action. Michael Greene was not terminated or suspended, but the county did cancel his credit card and ordered him to pay back $1,579.21. Wanda Greene stopped using county issued credit cards in February 2011 and returned the cards to the finance department.
“She informed a county employee that she was doing so because the records of her use of those cards could be subject to disclosure under the North Carolina Public Records Act,” the indictment says.
After turning in her P-card, the indictment says Greene turned to subordinates with access to county credit cards, requiring them to provide her with photocopies of the front and back of the cards. The indictment says Greene’s son also had a photocopy of an employee credit card until it was recovered by law enforcement agents on July 24, 2017.
According the the indictment, Greene also directed at least two of her subordinates to go to stores in Buncombe County and purchase gift cards using their P-cards. The employees would then give them to Greene, according to the indictment. Greene’s subordinates allegedly bought $75,400 worth of gift cards between May 7, 2010 and April 26, 2017.
Wanda and Michael Greene are scheduled to make their first appearance at the Federal Courthouse at 100 Otis St. in Asheville on Friday, April 13.
The charges carry the potential for fines and jail time, including maximum prison terms of five years and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge; a maximum prison term of 10 years per count and a $250,000 fine for the program fraud charges; and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count and a $250,000 fine per count for the wire fraud charges. Wanda Greene and Michael Greene face one count for the conspiracy charge and 50 counts for the wire fraud charges. Wanda Greene faces an additional five counts for the program fraud charges.