Wanda Greene reaches plea deal, settles with Buncombe County

HEARING HUB: Former County Manager Wanda Greene has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Her plea hearing will occur at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 in the federal courthouse at 100 Otis St. in downtown Asheville. Photo by David Floyd

The central figure in the corruption scandal that has transfixed Buncombe County government leaders and taxpayers since 2017 has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors and a settlement with the county.

Former County Manager Wanda Greene agreed to plead guilty to two counts of federal program fraud, one count of receiving bribes and kickbacks and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return.

Each count of program fraud, as well as the count of receiving bribes and kickbacks, could lead to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and no more than three years of supervised release. The count of making a false tax return carries a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

In three indictments released over the last several months, Greene has been of accused of using county-issued purchase cards to make thousands of dollars worth of personal purchases, enriching herself by establishing an employee life insurance program without approval from the Board of Commissioners, and accepting kickbacks from a former county contractor in exchange for favorable consideration.

Prosecutors have also accused her of misstating her taxable income in a tax return submitted for calendar year 2017 and submitting a Schedule C form claiming to own a business called “Buncombe County,” which she claimed earned no income but incurred more than $37,000 worth of expenses.

Greene’s plea hearing will occur at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 in the federal courthouse at 100 Otis St. in downtown Asheville.

A $750,000 settlement

On Jan. 2, the night before the plea deal became public, Buncombe County accepted a $750,000 settlement from Greene.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the settlement. Board Chair Brownie Newman told Xpress after the meeting that, pending the discovery of any other alleged misdeeds, the settlement resolves all civil complaints the county has brought against Greene.

The $750,000 total takes into account:

  • About $242,000 in restitution for money Greene received through the county’s retention incentive program, which the county claims was not approved through proper channels.
  • About $176,000 for the purchase of personal items and gift cards using county purchase cards.
  • About $221,000 for county funds spent on an employee life insurance program allegedly initiated by Greene that the county says did not receive proper Board of Commissioners approval.
  • About $111,000 for trips and entertainment that Greene allegedly received from contractor Joseph Wiseman Jr. in exchange for favorable consideration on county contracts. Prosecutors claim Wiseman recouped money he spent on these kickbacks by inflating reimbursement requests he submitted to the county. Prosecutors have not charged Wiseman with a crime.

With the $750,000 settlement the county accepted on Jan. 2, it has recouped about $2.88 million in losses associated with the alleged corruption.

On Nov. 20, the county accepted a $40,000 settlement from Greene’s son, former county employee Michael Greene. Federal prosecutors charged Greene in April with making about $7,500 in personal purchases with his county-issued purchase card.

MONEY MATTERS: Ron Payne, the attorney representing Buncombe County in its civil lawsuits against former county officials, tells commissioners about a $750,000 settlement with Wanda Greene during a Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 2. Commissioners approved the settlement unanimously. Photo by David Floyd

“It was discovered that, while he had not been indicted on other matters, the total amount that Buncombe County was probably out by his misdeeds was approximately $38,000,” the county’s attorney for the matter, Ron Payne, told commissioners during the meeting on Nov. 20.

In July, the county agreed to a settlement totaling more than $2 million with Guardian Life Insurance Co., the company prosecutors say Greene used to purchase whole life insurance policies for herself, her son and eight additional county employees. An annuity was purchased for an additional employee. Payne says the settlement reached with Greene makes the county whole for the money that was improperly spent on life insurance policies.

The civil lawsuits against former Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton, former County Manager Mandy Stone, Wiseman and his company, Environmental Infrastructure Consulting, are ongoing.

“We feel like we’re making a lot of progress,” Newman said after the Jan. 2 meeting. “And our goal is to make taxpayers fully whole for the misappropriations these people participated in, and we’re getting very far along in achieving that goal.”

In a motion for protective order filed on Dec. 27, Wiseman’s attorney, Christopher Lewis, says Wiseman and Environmental Infrastructure Consulting deny the allegations included in the Aug. 7 indictment and the county’s civil lawsuit. Lewis asked the court to halt the discovery process until the criminal investigation into former county officials associated with the alleged kickback scheme is complete. Lewis also wrote that Wiseman has filed a motion to be dismissed from the county’s civil lawsuit on several legal grounds, including lack of jurisdiction.

Editors note: This article was updated to add the time and date of Wanda Greene’s plea hearing.

This article was updated at 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7, to clarify the nature of the motion for protective order submitted by Wiseman’s attorney.

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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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9 thoughts on “Wanda Greene reaches plea deal, settles with Buncombe County

  1. BC taxpayer

    Please, please hire / elect more CROOKED DEMOCRATS… for the children!

    • Lulz

      And why not? They’re the last ones to feel the pain. When the party is compromised of wealthy elitist on one end and poor welfare on the other, they come out winners. It’s the rest that get the short end.

      People that spoke up about Green and her tax increases were treated as trolls. These people are a cult. Time and time again we’ve seen what those in local government are about. And yet we will see no change and tax increases will continue. They’re already pushing for early evaluations again. The area is a joke. Low wages on one end and high taxes on the other. Rampant cronyism, corruption, big business/tourism controlling regulations, and loss of property rights. What people refuse to see or acknowledge is that leftist want to control people through laws and regs. Even if it means they break the law themselves or partner with the same corporations they outwardly scold but secretly are in step with.

      • SpareChange

        “People that spoke up about Green and her tax increases were treated as trolls.”

        I don’t know about this. Proposing one friendly amendment here:
        People who anticipated or spoke up about Green’s corruption were 100% right (she had no power to actually “increase taxes,” just embezzle them — and for that she’s on her way to federal prison [applause, applause]). That by itself certainly does not make someone a troll; that just makes them correct.

        Trolls on the other hand, are usually lonely, angry misanthropes who routinely and repeatedly post the same inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in a given forum, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion. That’s really a quite different thing.

        Now, here’s where it gets interesting… Sometimes, the two characterizations (being both correct and a troll) can actually converge. It is similar to, and as rare as, an eclipse — but yes, it does happen. This could occur, for instance, when a troll constantly depicts all public officials from just one party or political persuasion as corrupt, while conveniently ignoring the corruption within their own party or persuasion. Then, when inevitably a corrupt official is uncovered within the party they demonize, the troll bursts through an open door, shouting, “See… I told you so!” In that narrow context, and for that one brief moment, both standards and definitions are met. The poster may actually be both correct and a troll.

        • Lulz

          Again. Green would go in front of the board and recommend tax increases which were automatically passed. Without question. People don’t do that unless they have no fear of losing their seats. Why would they? They have a base of SHEEP that is well off and won’t feel the pain of tax increases on one end. And a poverty class on the other that get money from it. It’s those in the middle that struggle.

        • Dirty Notherner

          So what you’re saying is that if a troll throws enough %^&@ at the wall eventually some will stick?

          Wouldn’t it be nice if they just stopped playing with poop? Buncha dirty fecalpheliacs…

          • Lulz

            LOL the only crap slung around here from the morons who go along with corporate cronyism, corruption, nepotism, tax increases, and conflicts of interests. The fact that Green’s son was in a made up 6 figure job without so much as a peep from the board for years is telling. That the SHEEP don’t question any of it and continue to vote in the same is how insane they are. And of course they always revert to blaming Raleigh when it’s convenient.

  2. Lillian Warren

    Most of the ruling class in our county are as crooked as a mountain road and just asoon dangerous.
    Ask anyone who stood up to the lying dogs. Mandy Stone failed to report and investigate sexual abuse. Retaliation is common..
    Hope they rot in jail.

  3. Mike

    By “settlement”, I wonder if it means (a) Wanda has actually coughed up $750,000 to the county. or (b) Wanda agrees she now owes the county $750,000 to be paid eventually on some schedule. If it is the latter, what happens when after all her fines and legal fees are paid Wanda successfully files for bankruptcy.

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