Federal courthouse in Asheville
The federal courthouse in Asheville seen from its south entrance. Carolina Public Press file photo

A federal judge in Asheville handed down sentences Wednesday to former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene, three former county employees and a county contractor involved in embezzlement schemes.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray released a statement late Wednesday afternoon characterizing the group’s crimes as having “defrauded the county of hundreds of thousands of dollars.” U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr. assigned prison sentences to each of them in succession.

Greene, 68, received an 84-month federal prison sentence, plus a year of supervised release. The judge also ordered her to pay a $100,000 fine. Greene pleaded guilty to multiple charges in January. She has been cooperating with federal authorities investigating other cases. Otherwise she might have received a steeper sentence, according to reporting from WLOS-TV of Asheville.

Conrad also issued sentences against the others, all of whom have pleaded guilty over their actions linked to Greene’s schemes:

Former Buncombe County Assistant Manager Mandy Stone, 60, received a sentence of 33 months in federal prison and one year of supervised release. She was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. She pleaded guilty to federal program fraud in January.

Former Buncombe County Assistant Manager Jon Creighton, 68, received an 18-month federal prison sentence with one year of court supervision, plus a $25,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to federal program fraud in Oct. 2018.

Former Buncombe County Business Intelligence Manager Michael Greene, 48, who is Wanda Greene’s son, received a six-month federal prison sentence with one year supervised release and a $5,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to embezzle county funds in July 2018.

County contractor Joseph Wiseman, 59, of Georgia received a 37-month prison sentence and one year of supervised release, plus a $15,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a bribery scheme involving Wanda Greene, Creighton and Stone in February 2019.

The fines issued were apart from restitution agreements that the defendants have already reached with Buncombe County for misappropriated funds, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

But U.S. Attorney Murray had strong words for the defendants.

“This is a reprehensible group of individuals, whose ethical obligation to their community took a back seat to personal gain,” Murray said in a statement.

“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 applied equally to everyone regardless of stature or position.”

Earlier this summer, a federal grand jury also indicted former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost on 11 counts for alleged involvement in schemes with Wanda Greene. A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson asked by Carolina Public Press about potential charges against others implicated through Greene’s cooperation with investigators would not rule out additional charges against more public officials and others who might be implicated.

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