Crime

Fmr. Buncombe Co. Manager Wanda Greene pleads not guilty

BUNCOMBE CO., NC (WSPA) - Former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene was back in court on Wednesday. 

Greene was released on a number of conditions, the most notable being that she’s not allowed to make any financial transactions or investments above$10,000 unless she consults her probation officer first. 

Greene has been indicted on 23 charges, including wire fraud, federal program fraud and money laundering. On Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial. 

Wednesday marked her first court appearance following indictments related to the purchase of whole life insurance policies from Charlotte based insurance agent Boyd “Bo” Cauble. 

According to court records, Greene used $2.3 million of taxpayer money to buy insurance policies for herself, her son Michael Greene who also worked for the county, and eight other county workers who she allegedly hand-picked herself. 

Federal court records state the county was unaware of the policies. Instead, the 22-page indictment states an amendment of $8.5 million was added to the budget.

It was supposed to be compensation for five employees wrongfully convicted of murder, but the federal counsel now says Greene intentionally built in a surplus. 

After her retirement, Greene allegedly cashed out her two policies worth $396,000. 

On Wednesday, a federal judge told Greene to cease contact with all the employees named in the case, but did allow her to continue contact with her son. 

If she fails to meet her conditions of release, she could be arrested and jailed for up to 11 years, in addition to her sentence if she is convicted. 

On Tuesday, Buncombe County filed a lawsuit against Greene and her son. The county is suing for monetary damages caused by Greene’s alleged fraudulent use of taxpayer money and tortious conduct. 

Buncombe County alleged it has sustained damages in excess of $25,000. 

Neither Greene nor her court appointed counsel commented. 

On the same day of Greene's court appearance, Buncombe County commissioners met to discuss appointing an interim county manager. 

Current manager Mandy Stone has announced her resignation.

Stone is set to retire on July 1. 

No interim manager was named on Wednesday.

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PREVIOUS STORY:

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) - The former manager of Buncombe County and her son face federal charges over their alleged misuse of public funds. 

Wanda Skillington Greene, 66, and Michael Gene Greene, 47, both of Arden, were  indicted with conspiracy to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud or misapply Buncombe County funds and wire fraud offenses, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Justice Department. Wanda Greene is also charged with embezzling public funds. 

ARRAIGNMENT

Wanda was released with conditions after pleading not guilty in an arraignment on Wednesday.

Conditions include all standard conditions including no contact with witnesses.

The judge is allowing her to continue communications with her son.

She is not to make any financial transactions, investments, etc. above the amount of $10,000 unless she consults with her probation officer.

If she fails to meet her conditions she will be arrested and give a sentence of up to 11 years in addition to any possible sentence if convicted.

Her attorneys asked for a jury trial and that is set for August 6.

THE ACCUSATION

According to an indictment, mother and son used government credit cards to make about $200,000 worth of improper purchases over a 10-year period. 

Wanda Greene served as county manager from 1997 until her retirement in June 2017, while Michael Greene was employed with the county from 2004 until his resignation in August 2017, the indictment says. 

The indictment alleges Wanda Greene bought multiple gift cards totaling $21,760 from retailers such as Walmart, Target, Olive Garden, and Cracker Barrel. Prosecutors say she split a $5,000 purchase of gift cards with two credit cards so she would not exceed the county’s spending limit then used the gift cards to purchase items for herself, including wine and makeup. 

Big purchases were allegedly made at other retailers, such as Best Buy and Target. 

Wanda Greene stopped using county credit cards in 2011 after learning the cards were subject to disclosure, and then directed employees to make improper purchases with their cards, according to the indictment. 

Wanda Greene and her son are also accused of having employees provide them photocopies of cards that they used to make purchases.

Buncombe County officials issued the following statement about the allegations: 

With the indictments handed down today, we move forward as a community in holding former County Manger Wanda Greene and former employee Michael Greene responsible for alleged criminal actions on their part. If proven true, these actions are a gross violation of Dr. Greene’s position and power as an appointed County official and Mr. Greene’s responsibility as a County employee.

As this continues to be an ongoing federal investigation, the Board of Commissioners and County administration have no further comment at this time. Like you, we want to make sure there is full accountability for these actions.

From day one, the Board and County staff have cooperated fully with the investigation. This process began when County staff discovered financial irregularities upon Dr. Greene’s retirement. Immediately, staff reported these findings to the County’s Senior Attorney who then notified the Chair of the Commission. The Chair and Senior County Attorney decided to turn these findings over to the District Attorney’s office for investigation. 

The Board has made it an ongoing priority to implement policies that strengthen the Board’s fiduciary oversight.


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