LANSING, MI – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced he filed felony embezzlement charges against Maria Louisa Mason, of Williamston, for allegedly stealing money from a state fund designated for a memorial statue.
“I have said it before and will continue to, public officials are held to a higher standard,” said Schuette. “Ms. Mason was allegedly using funds dedicated to a memorial statue to instead fund her personal expenses and now she is faceing the consequences.”
Mason was arraigned Tuesday, April 18, 2017 before Magistrate Laura Milllmore in 54A District Court. Her bond was set at $10,000 personal recognizance bond. Mason’s next court appearance is a pre-exam conference scheduled for April 27th at 9:30 a.m.
“The Michigan State Police is committed to protecting the citizens of Michigan and that includes holding public officials accountable if they abuse their power,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police. “The MSP does not tolerate any type of criminal behavior.”
Maria Louisa Mason, 80, is the former Executive Director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission within the Department of Civil Rights. A complaint was filed with the Michigan State Police by the Department of Civil Rights after it was suspected that Mason had stolen money that had been given to the state to construct a Cesar Chavez Memorial statue in Lansing.
MSP began an investigation that revealed Mason allegedly embezzled over $73,500 from February 2013 until June 2015. She retired in December 2015. It is alleged that Mason took State of Michigan money that had been given to the Commission to build the memorial statue in Lansing. She arranged to have the funds transferred to a non-profit and a local community center. Mason allegedly had control of the bank accounts for both organizations. Neither used the money for the Chavez statute. Instead Mason transferred the funds to her personal accounts and personally took numerous cash withdrawals. The monument has not been built.
Ms. Mason allegedly used her ill-gotten gains, to pay her numerous credit cards, including AMEX, Capital One, Chase, Discover, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. She also paid her University Club Fees, her State of Michigan and City of Lansing taxes, her auto insurance, DTE and cell phone bills, and for shoes, among other items.
The executive director is selected by the commissioners, who are appointed by the Governor with advice and consent from the Senate.