A Roswell man cut a deal Thursday with federal prosecutors in North Carolina and admitted he bribed Asheville-area elected officials with lavish trips and cases of California wine to get $15 million in contracts over decades, records show.
Joseph F. Wiseman Jr. is an engineer and agent who arranged the contracts for three businesses between the mid-80s and 2017 with Buncombe County, with an estimated population over 250,000 residents.
The contracts mostly were to develop and maintain the county landfill, according to documents filed in federal court.
Wiseman — along with the former county manager and two assistant managers, all awaiting sentencing — did “defraud and deprive the citizens and the Government of Buncombe County ... through bribery, kickbacks and the concealment of material information,” the charging document read.
In addition to spa treatments, Wiseman gave them all-expenses paid trips from Key West and Napa Valley to Vancouver and Vienna.
Sometimes, there was a reason. In June 2014, the county officials charged the county to fly to San Francisco “to examine composting methods on behalf of the county,” but then Wiseman met them and paid for three baseball games and Napa Valley wine tours.
Other times, “there was no legitimate county business reason for them to visit Key West” in September 2014 on a five-day trip for which Wiseman picked up the $9,000 tab.
He also spent $6,000 sending them to the 2016 MLB All-Star game in San Diego.
From 2014 to 2017 alone, Wiseman netted $2 million in contracts, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors asked that Wiseman pay back $40,000.
Sometimes the government employees would get reimbursed, and other times they just used his card directly.
In order for one of the assistant county managers to get Marriott Rewards points, two of the accused workers created false county employee ID cards for Wiseman with his photograph but one of their names and titles so he could use their credit card.
Records show the judge gave Wiseman a $100,000 bond during the Thursday hearing.
Wiseman’s Midtown attorney, Holly Pierson, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that her client may not conduct business with government entities while out on bond. He has not yet been sentenced, but the newspaper reported that the 58-year-old man’s charge carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene and former assistant county managers Mandy Stone and Jon Creighton have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges related to Wiseman’s case and are awaiting sentencing, the Citizen-Times reported.
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