LANSING, MI – Maria Louisa Mason, of Williamston, has pleaded guilty to one felony count of embezzlement by an employee or agent, more than $50,000 but less than $100,000. Mason was charged in April 2017 for stealing $73k from a state fund designated for a memorial statue.
“Accountability and trust in public officials is incredibly important and when they use their position for personal financial gain, these officials must be held accountable,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. “Today’s plea will hold Ms. Mason accountable for her actions and most importantly see the donated funds go to the place they were originally intended.”
Mason pleaded guilty on Tuesday, December 5, 2018 before Judge Rosemarie Aquilina in the 30th Circuit Court in Lansing. A sentencing date has been set for January 23, 2019. Mason will also be required to pay restitution for the money she stole.
Maria Louisa Mason, 81, 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 embezzled over $73,500 from February 2013 until June 2015. She retired in December 2015. 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 had control of the bank accounts for both organizations. Neither accounts 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.
Mason 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 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.