Michael Greene enters guilty plea

PLEADING GUILTY: Michael Greene leaves the federal courthouse at 100 Otis St. in downtown Asheville after his plea hearing on July 27. Greene entered a guilty plea for one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States. Photo by David Floyd

Michael Greene, a former Buncombe County employee who has been accused of misusing county purchase cards, on July 27 pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the United States — in this case, misapplying more than $5,000 from a local government that receives $10,000 or more in federal assistance in a year.

According to a plea agreement filed on July 20, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining counts against Greene, detailed in an indictment released in early April, if the court accepts his guilty plea. Ted Besen, Greene’s attorney, said the government will move to dismiss the remaining charges against Greene after his sentencing. The count carries a maximum prison term of five years and/or a maximum fine of $250,000. Greene originally faced an additional 50 counts of wire fraud, according to an indictment released in April.

Greene must also forfeit $11,732.21, which court documents say he acquired directly or indirectly from the offenses for he which he pleaded guilty. According to the terms of the July 20 plea agreement, prosecutors will not require Greene to testify at any trial or sentencing involving his mother, alleged embezzler and former County Manager Wanda Greene.

According to court documents, Greene was aware of his mother’s use of a subordinate’s county-issued Visa card to make personal purchases. The documents say Michael Greene participated in the scheme and received more than $5,000 in personal benefit from it.

On about seven occasions between November 2012 and March 2017, Wanda Greene used two assistants’ county credit cards to purchase $4,909.89 of electronic devices, as well as cases, chargers and headphones, from the Apple Store for her son and herself, according to court documents.

From October 2012 to May 2017, Wanda Greene also used those credit cards for monthly Verizon Wireless charges, according to court documents. After receiving the monthly bills at her personal email address, Greene forwarded them to her assistant with instructions to use a county credit card to pay the bill. Altogether, the county paid $18,554.53 for wireless services for Michael Greene, members of Michael Greene’s immediate family and Wanda Greene. Court documents say Michael Greene knew his mother was using county money to pay for the service plan.

Additionally, Michael Greene had a photocopy of the county credit card issued to one of his mother’s subordinates, which he used to make purchases, court documents assert. Law enforcement agents discovered the photocopy in Michael Greene’s desk on July 24, 2017.

From at least 2007 to about January 2009, Michael Greene repeatedly used his county-issued P-card to make personal purchases, according to the April indictment. He billed monthly Verizon Wireless charges from Oct. 22, 2007 to Dec. 22, 2008, a total of $1,653.56, to the card. The indictment also alleged that Greene used his card to purchase thousands of dollars worth of items from Amazon, Staples, Best Buy and other vendors.

Greene was the recipient of two whole-life insurance policies purchased on his behalf by Wanda Greene. The former county manager also purchased policies for herself and several other county employees using $2.3 million in county money.

The county has filed a separate civil lawsuit against the Greenes in an effort to recover allegedly misappropriated county money identified in the federal investigations. Buncombe County recently reached a $2 million settlement with Guardian Life Insurance Co. — the company that sold the policies to Greene. Guardian is not named in the county’s civil lawsuit.

“This plea agreement should not affect the civil case,” Besen told Xpress by email, “and as indicated in court this morning, Michael is cooperating fully with the federal government and with the county’s attorneys and he will transfer the life insurance policies to the county after the court grants approval.”


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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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