Press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray announced today that the former Buncombe County Manager, Wanda Skillington Greene, 66, and her son, Michael Gene Greene, 47, both of Arden, N.C., are facing federal charges related to the misuse of public funds. A criminal bill of indictment charges Wanda Greene and Michael Greene with conspiracy to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud or misapply Buncombe County funds and wire fraud offenses. Wanda Greene is also charged with embezzling public funds and aiding and abetting such embezzlement.
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. Michael Greene began his employment with Buncombe County in 2004, until he resigned in August 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, from about 2007 to August 12, 2017, Wanda Greene and Michael Greene carried out a conspiracy to embezzle public funds, by misusing their government credit cards, also known as PCards, issued to them by Buncombe County, and by using the PCards of other County employees, to make approximately $200,000 worth of improper purchases.
The indictment alleges that, on multiple occasions during the relevant time period, Wanda Greene improperly used her government issued PCards to purchase multiple gift cards totaling $21,760 from various retailers and restaurants, including Walmart, Target, Olive Garden, and Cracker Barrel. For example, on or about December 6, 2007, Wanda Greene used two different PCards to purchase 10 separate $500 Walmart gift cards totaling $5,000. The indictment alleges that Wanda Greene split the purchase of the gift cards onto two different PCards, to avoid exceeding the County’s policy spending limit of $5,000. Wanda Greene then used the gift cards to buy items for herself and others, including groceries, personal hygiene products, clothing, wine and make-up. Wanda Greene gave some of the gift cards to other individuals who also used them to make improper purchases.
In addition to using the County’s credit cards to purchase gift cards, Wanda Greene also made personal purchases on her PCard at various retail stores, including purchases totaling $18,256 at Best Buy, $10,718 at Target, and $6,479.03 at TJ Maxx, among others. Furthermore, the indictment alleges that Wanda Greene used her PCard to pay a total of $15,308 for electronic devices and for service from telecommunications carriers that were personal use items and services.
According to the indictment, in 2011, Wanda Greene ceased using any County credit cards issued to her, and informed a Buncombe County employee that she was returning the PCards because the records of her use of those cards could be subject to disclosure under North Carolina law. From that time forward, Wanda Greene allegedly used PCards assigned to subordinate county employees, or directed the subordinate employees to use their PCards to make improper purchases for her, Michael Greene, and other individuals. According to the indictment, Wanda Greene misused the employees’ PCard information to purchase $75,400 in gift cards; to pay for personal use wireless services and wireless devices, with a total cost of $24,160; and to pay for more than $18,257 in goods and services at various retail stores.
To obtain the PCard holders’ credit card information, Wanda Greene required Buncombe County employees to provide her with a photocopy of the front and back of their PCards, which she then used to make the improper purchases. According to the indictment, Michael Greene also possessed such a photocopy until it was recovered in his County office.
The indictment alleges that, in addition to participating in the misuse of Wanda Greene’s PCards and those of her subordinate employees, Michael Greene used his County PCard to pay for food, wireless services, and goods totaling more $9,100. Michael Greene’s PCard privileges were revoked in January 2009 following an audit.
Wanda Greene and Michael Greene have been ordered to appear on a summons. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison terms of five years and a $250,000 fine, the federal program fraud charges carry a maximum prison term of 10 years per count and a $250,000 fine, and the wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count and a $250,000 fine.
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 prosecuting the case.
Initial appearance in court is set for Friday, April 13.