BUNCOMBE COUNTY, NC (FOX Carolina) Tuesday, a press release from the US Attorney's office announced a former Buncombe County Commissioner was indicted on federal charges connected to an alleged scheme to use hundreds of thousands of county funds.
According to US Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, Andrew Murray, a grand jury charged Ellen Frost with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, federal program fraud, and mail fraud.
The charges stem from her involvement in a scheme to use more than $575,000 of Buncombe County funds to sponsor equestrian activities in North Carolina and Florida.
Murray says that allegations contained in the 11-count indictment say that around early 2014 through November 2017, Frost spoke with former County Manager, Wanda Greene, about conspiring to execute a scheme to defraud the county of hundreds of thousands of dollars to support her equestrian passions.
Documents say the plan was to misapply funds allocated to the County's Economic Development program.
The indictment alleges that in or about 2014, the two began to speak about supporting the Tryon Center, and its affiliate, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida on behalf of the county.
Officials say the two entered into sponsorship and advertising contracts with the two equestrian centers, and affiliated equestrian enterprises, and schemed to pay for them with the money taken from the County.
The equestrian enterprises were entirely unaware of the criminal nature of the scheme, Murray said. The indictment further alleges Frost did not tell anyone of her plans with Greene.
Frost is also accused of scheming to cover up the scheme by attributing the county funds to the Asheville Regional Airport, which is not a county-funded entity.
A federal summons has been issued for Frost. All charges in the indictment are allegations at this time.
Murray says a federal program fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum term for for each federal program fraud charge is 10 years, while the mail fraud charges each carry a maximum prison term of 20 years.