Local

Former NC official now accused of stealing millions in taxpayer money, faces more charges

File photo

A former county manager in the North Carolina mountains was indicted Tuesday night on charges accusing her of stealing millions in taxpayer dollars and spending it on life insurance for her, her son and eight unwitting county employees.

A federal grand jury in Asheville returned a 23-count criminal indictment charging former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene with wire fraud, federal program fraud and money laundering in connection with the $2.3 million insurance scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlotte said.

According to the indictment, the 66-year-old Greene lied when she told the other employees that the county Board of Commissioners had approved a free new life insurance benefit plan for them.

The indictment said Greene funded the scheme by inflating the settlement amounts for two federal civil rights lawsuits against the county that the Board of Commissioners agreed to pay.

Unbeknownst to the commissioners, Greene had the county prepay the initial payment and several years’ worth of annual premiums for each policy agreement, according to the indictment. That meant that once the policy was terminated, the policy owner could receive whatever cash value the policy had, as well as the remaining prepaid premiums.

In July 2017, the month after she'd retired after 20 years as county manager, Greene obtained $396,000 by cashing out two of her policies, the indictment said.

Greene is charged with 12 counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum 20 years in prison; eight counts of federal program fraud, each carrying up to 10 years in prison; and three counts of money laundering, also carrying a maximum 10 years on each count.

A separate federal indictment in April accused Greene and her son, Michael Greene, of misusing their government credit cards to make $200,000 worth of improper purchases. Michael Greene worked for the county as an information systems security officer from 2004 until he resigned in August 2017.

Wanda Greene used the credit cards to buy $21,000 in gift cards from businesses including Walmart, Target, Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel, the April indictment said. She used the gift cards for herself and others to buy groceries, wine and makeup; she also gave some gift cards to others, according to the indictment.

Wanda Greene also made direct purchases with county cards, the indictment says, spending more than $18,000 at Best Buy, $10,000 at Target and $6,000 at TJ Maxx, the indictment said. She spent more than $15,000 for electronic devices and telecommunications services, according to the document.

In 2011, Wanda Greene stopped using her own county cards because, the indictment charges, records of their use could be released to the public. She then began using cards issued to other county employees or directed employees to make purchases for her, her son and others, totaling more than $75,000 in gift cards, $24,000 in wireless devices and services, and more than $18,000 in retail purchases, according to the indictment.

Michael Green used his county credit card to pay for more than $9,000 for food, wireless services and goods, the indictment said.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067
Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments