gavel money


81-Year-Old State Employee Caught Pocketing $74K Statue Fund

December 08, 2018 - 11:19 am

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - A former director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission is facing up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $74,000 that was set aside for a Lansing statue to honor farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.

Maria Louisa Mason, 81, pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling money that included state tax dollars and private donations. The Chavez statue has not been built.

Police were tipped off about the theft by the Department of Civil Rights, which suspected Mason had stolen money that had been given to the state to construct the statue. An investigation revealed that Mason embezzled over $73,500 from February 2013 until June 2015, according to the state. 

Authorities say the money was transferred to bank accounts that Mason controlled and used to pay credit card bills, taxes, DTE bills, cell phone bills, auto insurance and other personal expenses.

Mason retired from state government work in Dec. 2015 and was charged in April 2017. She must repay the money and will be sentenced Jan. 23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.