Feds file new fraud and money laundering charges against Wanda Greene

Former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene and her son Michael Greene are facing federal charges related to the misuse of public funds. Xpress stock photo

Press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina R. Andrew Murray:

NEW FEDERAL INDICTMENT CHARGES FORMER BUNCOMBE COUNTY MANAGER WITH WIRE FRAUD, FEDERAL PROGRAM FRAUD, AND MONEY LAUNDERING

Wanda Greene Allegedly Improperly Used $2.3 Million of Buncombe County Funds to Fund Fraudulent Life Insurance Policy Scheme

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A 23-count criminal indictment was returned by a federal grand jury sitting in Asheville late Tuesday, charging former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Skillington Greene, 66, of Arden, N.C., with wire fraud, federal program fraud, and money laundering, in connection with a $2.3 million scheme involving the purchase of whole life insurance policies for herself and other county employees using misappropriated County funds, announced R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division; Director Robert Schurmeier of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI); and Matthew D. Line, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Charlotte Field Office (IRS-CI), join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.

According to the indictment, Wanda Greene was appointed as County Manager for Buncombe County (the County) in 1997, and remained in that position until her retirement in June 2017. As County Manager, Wanda Greene was responsible for the administration of all departments of the County’s government under the control of the Board of Commissioners (the Board). In that role, Wanda Greene had the power to appoint, suspend, and remove all county officers, employees, and agents, and was responsible for directing and supervising the administration of all county offices, departments, boards, commissions and agencies controlled by the Board. As part of her duties, Wanda Greene was also required to prepare and submit the County’s annual budget and capital program to the Board, and to submit annually to the Board, and make available to the public, a complete report of the finances and administrative activities of the county at the end of the fiscal year.

According to allegations contained in the indictment, beginning in or about April 2015, and continuing until in or about July 2017, Greene defrauded Buncombe County by misappropriating approximately $2.3 million of Buncombe County funds to purchase whole life insurance policies for herself, her son Michael Greene, and eight other County employees, and to purchase an annuity for another county employee who did not qualify for a whole life insurance policy. During the time period relevant to the indictment, Buncombe County received benefits in excess of $10,000 per year under a federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, and other forms of federal assistance.

The indictment alleges that in April 2015, Greene began communicating with a Charlotte-based insurance agent about her intent to procure insurance policies for herself and certain other Buncombe County employees at County expense. Shortly after meeting with the insurance agent, Greene falsely began telling selected County employees that she had been working with the Board on a new benefit program for certain employees involving the County’s purchase of life insurance policies for them, at no expense to the employee. Greene allegedly stressed that only certain employees would be receiving this benefit, and told the employees with whom she spoke to keep this program and their participation strictly confidential .

According to the indictment, the policies that Greene was procuring were whole life insurance policies, with a resulting cash value and the ability to borrow against such policies. Furthermore, the indictment alleges that, at Greene’s direction, the County prepaid the initial payment and several years’ worth of annual premiums for each policy agreement, which meant that, upon termination of the policy, a policy owner could receive whatever cash value the policy had, as well as the remaining prepaid premiums. The indictment alleges that in this manner, in the first month after Greene retired from her County employment, she was able to obtain cash out of two such policies, thereby personally obtaining approximately $396,000 of fraudulently- acquired money funded by Buncombe County.

According to allegations in the indictment, Greene selected the employees that would receive the life insurance policies and selected the amounts the County would prepay for each policy. To fund the scheme, Greene did not seek the Board’s authorization to purchase these policies with County funds. Rather, in order to gain access to the County money necessary to fund her scheme, the indictment alleges that Greene inflated the settlement amounts for two federal civil rights lawsuits against the County that the Board agreed to pay. She later fraudulently claimed to the life insurance company, the insurance agent, and to the various County employees that the Board had also approved and enacted funding for the life insurance program she had created when it enacted a budget amendment to settle those lawsuits, when, in fact, the Board never approved, and never even knew about the existence of, Greene’s life insurance scheme.

The indictment further alleges that after the Board approved the requisite budget amendment to fund the settlement of the civil lawsuits, Greene caused a series of interstate wire transactions to make initial lump-sum prepayments, and later quarterly payments, toward the premiums of the various insurance policies. According to the indictment, shortly before she announced her intention to retire, Greene attempted to quadruple the quarterly payments from $40,000 to $160,000. When the County’s Finance Director expressed concern about the
increased amount, Greene destroyed the handwritten note she had provided requesting the increase, and told the Finance Director to forget about any more payments.

On May 30, 2017, Greene publicly announced her retirement, which took effect on June 30, 2017. The indictment alleges that, almost immediately upon her retirement, Greene liquidated her two life insurance policies. As a result, on or about July 13, 2017, the insurance company sent Greene two checks totaling $395,859.60, which Greene deposited into her State Employee Credit Union account. Less than a month later, on or about August 7, 2017, Greene used a portion of the proceeds from the insurance checks to wire $155,000 from her State Employees Credit Union account to the account of a law firm in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wanda Greene has been ordered to appear on a summons on the charges. She is charged with 12 counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; eight counts of federal program fraud, each carrying a maximum prison term of 10 years per count and a $250,000 fine; and three counts of money laundering, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison per count and a $250,000 fine.

A separate federal indictment was filed in April 2018, against Wanda Greene and her son, Michael Greene, for misusing their government credit cards to make approximately $200,000 worth of improper purchases. Those charges are still pending.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the FBI, IRS-CI and the SBI for their investigation of this case, and noted that the investigation into allegations of criminal activities within the Buncombe County Government is ongoing.

Assistant United States Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville is in charge of the prosecution.

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As Filed – Greene Indictment by David Floyd on Scribd

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13 thoughts on “Feds file new fraud and money laundering charges against Wanda Greene

  1. don

    Wanda Lou took the commissioners -and the county- on quite a ride, didn’t she? Wow. Lol.

  2. boatrocker

    News of the Weird worthy, I’d say.
    Remind me again, are the Feds the good or bad guys?
    When they investigate corruption in DC, isn’t that a witch hunt?

  3. OK MountainX, when are you going to investigate the money that funded URTV, Western North Carolina Community Media Center, that your investigative reporting helped to demonize URTV, and allow the County and City to take away the 1st Amendment platform that was exposing the corruption in Buncombe County and allow Wanda to go on a rampage with public funds? Have you investigated how much money in P.E.G. and video sales tax were used fraudulently since June 2011? Money that MountainX helped her to take because of biased reporting. Money that MountainX tried to receive thru a RFP from the City for a new public media center that was exactly what URTV provided and then some. Time to get the Whole story and not just biased reporting for a sensational story.

    • jason

      URTV was utter rubbish. Absolutely, without a doubt, the most ridiculous waste of money I have ever seen.

  4. Jo Anne Lorensen

    Am I the only tax-paying, voting, county resident who believes that the entire bunch of commissioners who were on the board during all this Wanda Greene debacle, should resign???!!! All of them! Gross negligence and incompetence! They let her get away with it! And all of the employees who received a HUGE secret life insurance policy (and did not speak up) should be fired! “Nothing fishy about this new gigantic insurance benefit but keep your mouth shut about it”, said Wanda.

    • Buncy

      Long before the indictments came down Commissioner Mike Fryar spent many hours digging into Greene’s corruption. You should at least give him credit for that, and for the Republican delegation on the county commissioners refusing Greene a green light to steal.

  5. Enlightened Enigma

    Where’s David Gantt hiding ? He has yet to apologize to the taxpayers about his democrackkk protecting ways … we are sick of it, in all sectors, not just here. Democrackkks simply are EVIL people.

  6. Robin Canuck

    I agree with Jo Anne Lorensen, that the entire lot of Commissioners should resign, and all of the benefitting employees should be fired by the new manager who replaces Mandy Stone (notice that Mandy also has deep nepotism issues as well, since she supervises her brother).
    Another point, there’s no way Wanda Greene did this all on her own. Somebody loaded budgets, somebody requested, processed, and approved purchase orders, and somebody cut checks. It’s ignorant to assume that Wanda did all of this without other county employees participating. I think that’s why you see such lavish pay, benefits, and now huge insurance policies for the county elite. Retirement “bonuses” for the Sheriff, an annuity for the Emergency Services Manager, and all of the money flowing all around appear to be just bribes to buy silence and compliance. Van Duncan can demure and deny all he wants, but when you “pay” an elected official a “retention bonus”; it looks like a bribe. The fact that the benefitting employees “signed over” the benefit of the insurance over to the County, AFTER the investigation, and not before, tells me they knew it was wrong.
    Also, just a reminder, those poor employee who are being portrayed as innocent victims of Wanda’s schemes that just happens to benefit them are not innocent line employees just caught up in Wanda’s misdoings; they are department directors who should know the laws. Some of them are statutorily bound to know and follow the law: Tim Flora, Van Duncan, Jerry Vehaun, and Mandy Stone. They have hundreds of employees and millions of dollars in budget; yet, they are now saying that they were ignorant of Wanda’s doings and “didn’t know it was wrong”, or just didn’t know who to ask if it was OK (yeah, that was you Van Duncan).

  7. Jo Anne Lorensen

    Thank you, Robin Canuck. That makes two of us. And both of us use our real names! But where is the outcry? Don’t taxpayers care at all where their money goes??? Or are crime and fraud just an acceptable part of government now? Speaking of “statutorily bound to know and follow the law,” how about THIS beneficiary: Michael Frue, county attorney: $150,000. And yes, Mandy and family must go!

  8. D.Dial

    Mountain Xpress covered some very questionable shenanigans ten years ago during the URTV days. That coverage was a forewarning of the gross abuse of power that is being revealed now, and I wonder just how many other important public services and entities are also being used for abuse and personal enrichment. Certainly there has been no evidence that the Board of Commissioners has been doing the fiduciary duties they are elected to do for the community.

    There was much to question ten years ago and the reporter did a good job of reporting on the many red flags happening over the meeting procedures and issues surrounding the compliance to the management agreement. I filed a lawsuit to get access to public finance records after first asking as a Director, and being denied those public records. Upon obtaining the records I hired a forensic accountant to review the accounts and the findings are very similar to what Greene was doing, many meals out in fancy restaurants, employees having their own iPhones and carrier accounts, $400.00 plus espresso machines and more.

    There was no interest by the Commission chair (Gantt) in seeing that URTV’s management was in compliance with the management contract or that they refused to comply with open record laws of the State, and none of the City or County liaisans were interested in seeing compliance either.

    What is being ignored by other posters discussing URTV and in the past when this was an issue was all the questionable management behaviors that appear to be similar self serving as the information that has come out about Greens use of public funds for personal expenditures.

    I wonder if the expensive equipment ($45,000 tv cameras, high end computers and editing software, professional level TV studio lighting, backdrops, professional TV studio broadcast console, servers and other equipment went the same was as the thirty missing ipads that were purchased by Greene & Greene on the public taxpayers dime?

    • Lulz

      LOL look up above at the comment where the person proclaims commissioners innocence. Leftist don’t care that Green stole FOR YEARS. What they really care about is that it doesn’t male their friends in government look bad. I’m sure more taxes are in store soon. Do you think these people care that the money is not accounted for and wasted away?

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