Financial fraud arrest in Owasso

An Owasso couple is charged with exploitation of an elderly person for fraudulently taking over an 89-year-old man’s financial affairs.  Former insurance agents Sterling Messer, 78, and Billie Messer, 60, cashed $15,189 worth of checks from the victim’s bank account. The victim said the Messers also pressured him into giving their church $22,000.

“The suspects violated each and every element of their professional and ethical duties,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “We will not tolerate any action that violates a consumer’s trust. I commend our investigators for their hard work on this case.”

The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Unit began investigating the Messers after receiving a complaint from the victim’s longtime friend. She was concerned about the Messers selling the victim, who was 86 at the time, a $92,500 annuity with a 10-year-term requirement. Then, they sold him a $59,273 policy with a 7-year-term requirement. The victim’s friend said he was unaware of the term requirements of the annuities. She also said the victim had hearing loss due to an ear injury sustained during World War II.

During the investigation, detectives learned the Messers convinced the victim to sign paperwork naming them successor trustees to his trust. The couple had also acquired durable power of attorney over the victim and amended his will to make themselves personal representatives of his estate. Combined, the moves gave the Messers control of the victim’s personal, business and financial affairs.

Sterling Messer’s insurance license was revoked on Aug. 20, 2015, for “using fraudulent, coercive or dishonest practices and by demonstrating incompetence, untrustworthiness and financial irresponsibility in the conduct of business.” Billie Messer’s insurance license was revoked on Dec. 14, 2015.