News Release

Please note:  As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

Owner of defunct North Carolina sign company pleads guilty to embezzlement of 401(k) and health plan assets

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Atlanta — The owner of defunct Wesco Signs Inc., Concord, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro to two counts of embezzlement of assets from the company’s 401(k) and health plans.

The plea agreement was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina and was investigated by the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

Mitchell W. Messer was indicted by a federal grand jury August 26 on two counts of embezzling assets from employee benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The indictment charged Messer with embezzlement of $19,286.21 in 401(k) assets and $5,583.38 in health care premiums.

During the period from February 4 through June 17, 2005, he failed to forward retirement plan contributions deducted from employees’ paychecks. Messer also did not forward health care premiums withheld from employee wages during the period of July 11 to November 4, 2005.

At the time of the criminal violations, Messer was the majority owner and president of Wesco Signs. The company, which manufactured electric and on-premise signs, sponsored a 401(k) for 46 participants as well as a health benefit plan.

As part of his plea agreement, Messer will make restitution to the plans and agreed to pay a special assessment of $100 for each offense. He is scheduled to be sentenced February 5, 2009.

“Theft of employee benefit assets jeopardizes the benefits of workers. This case sends a clear message that theft of employee benefit plan assets is a serious crime that will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said R.C. Marshall, director of EBSA’s Atlanta Regional Office.

U.S. v. Messer
Criminal Number 1:08CR324-1

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Department's Newsroom page. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202.693.7828 or TTY 202.693.7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit the Department's Compliance Assistance page.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

EBSA News Release: 
11/21/2008
Release Number: 
08-1738-ATL