Charlottesville Insurance Agent Sentenced on Fraud Charges - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Charlottesville Insurance Agent Sentenced on Fraud Charges

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Monday a former Charlottesville insurance agent learned the price he will have to pay for scamming people, businesses and even a Charlottesville nonprofit out of thousands of dollars. 

Graham Messer, 32, will spend seven months behind bars and pay more than $60,000 in restitution to the 11 victims he scammed. 

Investigators say Messer pretended to sell insurance under several company names from an office on Berkmar Drive.  He took customer's money, but never filed their policies.

Messer accepted full responsibility for his actions, saying words can't express how sorry he feels for his actions.     

The prosecution says the outcome is fair. "The court very carefully examined what the sentencing guidelines were, which were a set of guidelines which dictate what people all across the United States get for this kind of offense. The court very carefully weighed those, the impact on the community, but also the efforts the defendant has made to accept responsibility," said Elliott Casey, a special assistant United States attorney.

One of the victims includes The Piedmont House, a nonprofit transition home for men who have been released from prison.     

Messer received more than $32,000 from this organization alone under false pretenses.

Along with the jail time and restitution, Messer will have to spend seven months confined to his home as part of his three years of supervised release. 

Department of Justice Press Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA -- A local insurance agent, who pled in March to insurance fraud, was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Graham Hutson Messer, 32, of Bremo Bluff, Va., was originally charged in September 2012 with 13 counts of mail fraud. In March, Messer waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty to a one count Information charging him with insurance fraud. This afternoon in District Court he was sentenced to seven months of federal incarceration. In addition, Messer will serve three years of supervised release, the first seven months of which must be served on home confinement. He was also ordered to pay $60,019 in restitution to the victims of his fraudulent activity.

"Mr. Messer diverted money from his clients that they had paid in order to obtain insurance," United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. "His criminal conduct left his victims uninsured and placed the financial futures of many local families in jeopardy. A coordinated law enforcement effort uncovered Mr. Messer's scheme and led to his conviction. This case demonstrates our continuing commitment to investigating and prosecuting all forms of financial fraud."

Messer operated as an independent agent offering insurance and insurance products for sale to clients throughout Virginia. Messer purported to sell insurance offered by a variety of insurance companies. Though some policies were in fact placed with the proper companies, many were not.

Messer admitted that he would instruct his clients to send payments for insurance premiums directly to him. The defendant told his clients that he would then remit the payments to the insurance companies. However, Messer admitted that he embezzled those funds for his own, personal use, never sending them to the insurance company, while also deceiving his clients into believing they had insurance coverage when they did not.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Albemarle County Police Department, the Virginia Bureau of Insurance and the Charlottesville City Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Elliott Casey is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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