Former Buncombe County Manager Mandy Stone has agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors for her part in an alleged kickback scheme that has snared three former county officials.
Stone will plead guilty to one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, which could carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and no more than three years of supervised release.
As part of the plea agreement, she has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and provide testimony against her co-defendants, as well as documentation or materials that could be relevant to the case.
Former Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton, one of Stone’s co-defendants, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in October.
Stone, along with Creighton and former County Manager Wanda Greene, has been accused of accepting lavish vacations from contractor Joseph Wiseman Jr. in exchange for favorable consideration on county contracts, which prosecutors say Creighton and Greene had the authority to award.
Wiseman is not named in the indictment or the factual basis submitted with Stone’s plea deal, but the county identified him as the contractor after the indictment was released on Aug. 7. Federal prosecutors have not charged Wiseman with a crime.
Wiseman, according to court documents, generally paid for the defendants’ airplane tickets, hotel rooms, meals, ground transportation, sightseeing trips, spa session and gift shop purchases.
On trips that coincided with the timing of official, county-related meetings, court documents say Stone, Creighton and Greene would sometimes charge the county for airline tickets. The defendants also managed to preserve their unused annual leave hours on these trips by claiming that they were traveling on county business, the documents say. They could then sell these unused hours back to the county for money. (The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has since voted to curtail its annual leave sale policy.)
Prosecutors say the defendants also submitted per diem and expense claims for the cost of meals and incidental expenses during these trips, expenses that court documents say Wiseman had already paid for.
From the mid-1980s through 2017, court documents say Wiseman was the agent or contractor for three businesses that received more than $15 million in contracts from Buncombe County.
Court documents say Stone received more than $40,000 in gifts and items of value as a result of this scheme.
Wanda Greene, who has been indicted three times, is now the only defendant in the corruption investigation embroiling Buncombe County who has not reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Her son, former county employee Michael Greene, entered a guilty plea in July to one count of conspiracy related to allegations that he used county purchase cards for personal benefit.
Stone’s plea hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 2, at the federal courthouse at 100 Otis St. in downtown Asheville.