Former county commissioner pleads not guilty to fraud charge

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 14:45:54-04

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    Charlotte, NC (WLOS) — A former Buncombe County commissioner makes her first appearance in federal court on Wednesday.

Ellen Frost entered a not guilty plea and asked for a jury trial. She faces 11 charges, among them, conspiracy, federal program fraud and mail fraud, all in a federal corruption case tied to equestrian activities.

We were live at the federal courthouse in Charlotte, where the hearing was moved after Judge Metcalf recused himself. This was both a first appearance and arraignment for Frost.

According to what was detailed in court, between 2014 and 2017, federal investigators claim, Frost and Wanda Greene used money earmarked for Buncombe County economic development.

Investigators allege that instead of jobs, Frost and Greene used the funds for sponsorships at equestrian events in Polk County and Florida, and then said the funds were used to promote the Asheville Regional Airport.

The two spent more than $575,000 without the knowledge of the board of commissioners. On Wednesday, Frost’s attorney said the charges against her are a stretch by the government, and she essentially received nothing of value.

“Frost is supposed to have conspired with Wanda Greene to direct this money somewhere,” said Frost’s attorney, Tony Scheer. “There may have been a crime that happened somewhere with Tryon, but Ellen Frost wasn’t responsible for it.”

According to the indictment, Frost owns horses near the equestrian center in Tryon. Court documents claim the sponsorships gave Frost access to perks there, among them a private table, buffet spreads and bar services.

Frost was released on bond and will have to check in with probation if she wants to travel outside the mountains.

Her attorney had some tough words about the actions of Wanda Greene. We’ll have more on that starting at 5 p.m.

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