LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) — The Utah State University professor accused of defrauding the university of more than $11,000 has pleaded guilty to misuse of public funds, according to documents.
Terry Messmer, 70, pleaded guilty to the misuse of public money, a second-degree felony, on Sept. 25. As part of the plea agreement, the other two charges of communications fraud and alteration of a government record will be dismissed.
While the punishment for misusing public money is 1-15 years in jail and at least $10,000 in fines, according to the documents, the state has agreed to reduce the charge to a Class A misdemeanor following the successful completion of his probation.
The state will recommend no jail time, however, Messmer will pay $23,640 as part of the agreement.
Messmer reportedly worked as a professor and extension wildlife specialist for the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University for more than 30 years.
On March 7, USU Police received a report from the university’s audit office saying that officials had identified a series of fraudulent documents filed by Messmer looking to have his USU business travel expenses reimbursed. Police say a total of $11,871.47 was deposited into his accounts as a result.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Messmer had filed documents claiming mileage payment for his business trips even though he had driven a USU vehicle instead of a personal one.
The audit office reportedly found a total of 24 trips, dated from May 7, 2018, through Jan. 5, 2023, where Messmer had falsely claimed he took a personal vehicle to a business trip so he could get reimbursed.
Additionally, there were 10 other cases where Messmer incorrectly filled out documents requesting extra per diem or lodging for his business travels, according to the affidavit. Police say Messmer told them he was remorseful.
Messmer’s sentencing is currently set to take place on Nov. 6.