Former Buncombe County Manager, Three Former County Employees, And A County Contractor Are Sentenced To Prison For Embezzling Public Funds
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced that former Buncombe County Manager, Wanda Greene, three former County employees, and a County contractor involved in embezzlement schemes that defrauded the County of hundreds of thousands of dollars were sentenced to prison today by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr.
Wanda Skillington Greene, 68, of Arden, N.C. was sentenced to 84 months in prison and one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. On January 16, 2019, Wanda Greene pleaded guilty, in three separate indictments, to embezzling public funds and aiding and abetting such embezzlement; federal program fraud; making and subscribing a false federal tax return; and receipt of bribes and kickbacks and aiding and abetting.
Amanda (Mandy) Louise Stone, 60, of Black Mountain, N.C., was sentenced to 33 months prison and one year of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. On January 2, 2019, Stone pleaded to conspiracy to commit federal program fraud through the receipt of bribes and kickbacks.
Jon Eugene Creighton, 68, of Asheville, was ordered to serve 18 months in prison followed by one year under court supervision, and to pay a $25,000 fine. On October 30, 2018, Creighton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal program fraud through the receipt of bribes and kickbacks.
Michael Gene Greene, 48, of Arden, was ordered to serve six months in prison, one year of supervised release, and to pay a $5,000 fine. On July 27, 2018, Michael Greene pleaded guilty to conspiracy to embezzle Buncombe County funds.
Judge Conrad also sentenced Joseph F. Wiseman, Jr., 59, of Roswell, Georgia, to 37 months in prison and one year of supervised release. Wiseman was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. Wiseman pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge on February 7, 2019, for his role in a bribery scheme involving Wanda Greene, Creighton, and Stone.
Wanda Greene, Michael Greene, Creighton, and Stone have already entered into legal agreements with Buncombe County to pay the County for the amounts they misappropriated, therefore the Court did not impose any additional restitution as part of their sentences. The final restitution amount against Wiseman will be determined by the Court at a later date.
In announcing today’s sentences, U.S. Attorney Murray said, “This is a reprehensible group of individuals, whose ethical obligation to their community took a back seat to personal gain. As the ringleader, Wanda Greene exploited her vast knowledge of the county’s operations to orchestrate various financial schemes, and solicited willing co-conspirators to carry out the fraud. These five defendants repeatedly and egregiously plundered County funds, stealing thousands of public dollars, while they operated with utter impunity, believing they were beyond the law. Even worse, each of them did more than take public money. Their actions destroyed the public’s trust in those whose ethical standards should have been beyond reproach. But today is their day of reckoning. Today, justice was served, as prison time is in their future for their deliberate violations of the law – a law that applies equally to everyone regardless of stature or position.”
“The prison sentences handed down today serve as a reminder that there are consequences for robbing communities of the honest government they deserve. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will pursue anyone, including public officials who treat government funds like their own personal piggy bank,” said John Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina.
“No matter the source of income, all income is taxable,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Division. “The prosecution of individuals who intentionally conceal income and evade taxes is a vital element of the IRS’ enforcement strategy. Today’s sentencing is a direct result of the excellent partnership IRS, FBI, SBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has in combating violation of the federal law. This sentence should serve as a deterrent to those who might contemplate similar fraudulent actions.”
“The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is grateful to have contributed to this important investigation. We commend U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray, his staff and our colleagues at the FBI and IRS-CI for sending an unambiguous message to corrupt public officials that justice will triumph,” said SBI Director Robert Schurmeier.
According to the filed indictments, plea documents, and today’s sentencing hearings:
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. As County Manager, Wanda Greene was responsible for directing and supervising the administration of all county offices, departments, boards, commissions and agencies controlled by the Board of Commissioners. She also had the authority to approve the awarding of certain contracts between the County and private contractors, including contracts for engineering and consulting services.
Creighton began working for the County in March 1982. From 1985 until he retired in December 2017, Creighton was the Director of the County’s Department of Planning and Development. As part of his duties, Creighton negotiated contracts between the County and private contractors, and was responsible for signing such contracts on behalf of the County. From 1997 until his retirement, Creighton also had a dual appointment as Assistant County Manager.
Stone began working for the County in the 1980s. In 1994, she became the Assistant Director of the County’s Department of Social Services, and became the Department’s Director in 2001. Beginning 2005, Stone also had a dual appointment, along with Creighton, as Assistant County Manager. She held both positions until she became County Manager upon Greene’s retirement. Stone retired from the County in June 2018.
Wiseman was a licensed Professional Engineer. From the mid-1980s through 2018, Wiseman was the agent and contractor for three businesses, and, during the relevant time period, Wiseman obtained a combined total of more than $15 million in contracts with Buncombe County for consulting and engineering services.
Wanda Greene, Creighton, and Stone (the County Officials) engaged in a bribery scheme with Wiseman and used their official positions to enrich and benefit themselves by soliciting and accepting all-expense paid vacations, gifts, payments, and other things of value, totaling more than $75,000 from Wiseman, in exchange for awarding Wiseman and the companies he represented with lucrative county contracts and projects. Wiseman understood and agreed that providing the trips, gifts, and other things of value to the three County Officials was a necessary condition for his companies to continue to obtain contracts with the County.
Wanda Greene orchestrated a separate scheme with her son, Michael Greene, who was employed by the County as an Information Systems Security Officer, by which they embezzled public funds by misusing their County-issued government credit cards and the government credit cards of other employees, to make approximately $200,000 worth of improper purchases.
Wanda Greene also misappropriated more than $2.3 million of the County’s money to fund a fraudulent life insurance policy scheme involving the purchase of whole life insurance policies for herself and other County employees. Upon her retirement from her County employment, Wanda Greene fraudulently obtained $396,000 by cashing out her two life insurance policies.
Wanda Greene also failed to report to the IRS the additional income she received through her embezzlement schemes as well as whole life insurance policies schemes, and filed false federal tax returns with the IRS for years 2012 through 2017.
Following their sentencing hearings, the defendants were released on bond, and will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prison upon designation of a federal facility to begin serving their sentences. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the FBI, IRS-CI and the SBI for their outstanding investigative work, 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 in charge of the prosecution.