Ellen Frost, the 65-year-old former Buncombe County commissioner facing accusations of using federal funds to sponsor equestrian activities, pleaded guilty in federal court in Asheville on Monday.
The Black Mountain resident admitted in court to conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, according to an announcement from Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Frost served as a Buncombe County commissioner from 2012-18.
According to a statement from the Murray’s office, court documents and Monday’s plea hearing show that Frost conspired with former County Manager Wanda Greene, who has already been sentenced for multiple crimes while in office, “to execute a scheme to defraud the county by misapplying funds allocated to the county’s economic development program to support various equestrian enterprises,” naming the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Polk County and its affiliate, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida.
Murray said the scheme came to light when county employees discovered the payments in June 2017, after Greene retired.
The guilty plea marks a sharp turnaround for Frost after the initial comments her attorney, Anthony Scheer of Charlotte, issued when a federal grand jury indicted her in January 2019. At the time, Scheer said his client had been duped by Greene.
“It’s almost like turning a political beef over the sponsorship into a crime,” Scheer told Asheville TV station WLOS.
Frost has not yet been sentenced but could face up to five years in federal prison.