Former Buncombe County Commissioner Ellen Frost became the first elected official to get swept up in the sweeping corruption investigation by federal authorities.
Frost, a Democrat, was indicted by a grand jury on eleven counts of fraud.
From the Asheville Citizen-Times:
The charges for Frost come nearly a year and half after a Citizen Times investigation found the 64-year-old was involved in former Greene's questionable use of taxpayer funds for sponsorships and advertisements at Tryon International Equestrian Center.
A federal grand jury indictment issued July 16 charges Frost with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, federal program fraud and mail fraud. She is the fifth county official to be indicted — and the only one among them to hold elected office — amid a federal corruption investigation that had thus far mostly centered on the corrupt activities of administrators and a contractor.
Frost is due to appear in court July 24. The most serious charges against her carry a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said its investigation into county government is ongoing.
WLOS reports how Frost personally benefited from those sponsorships:
The contract with the equestrian center included access to a members-only, VIP area known as the Legends Club. The Legends Club and use of a VIP table was limited to those who were on the admissions list.
According to court documents, Frost served as the contact person and approved use of the county-funded table at the Legends Club. According to the allegations, Frost repeatedly used the VIP table and invited her friends and other guests, but did not disclose to the other commissioners the existence of the VIP table nor her use of it.
In addition to the dinners, the indictment alleges that Greene and Frost took at least two county-funded trips related to the scheme, one to Wellington, Florida, and another to Saratoga Springs, New York. According to the indictment, Greene and Frost never toured a facility in New York in an effort to bring a similar facility to the area near Asheville Regional Airport, instead the pair attended horse races and visited a large private farm where a horse once owned by Frost was stabled.
The total cost of both trips was more than $8,841.
Frost was highly critical of Greene when it was first revealed the former county manger was under federal investigation, shortly after Greene’s retirement in June 2017.
Most appalling, after County Manager Wanda Greene retired and got indicted, Frost went on a PR blitz to local media (including WWNC), ostensibly to assure citizens that the culture of corruption was being rooted out by commissioners and the newly-appointed County Manager Mandy Stone (who was soon thereafter indicted for participating in the corruption with Greene).