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Former State Employee to Pay Nearly $86,000 in Restitution for Embezzlement Scheme

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Thursday announced the sentencing of the former executive director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission for embezzling funds given to the state for its construction of a Cesar Chavez statue in Lansing. Maria Louisa Mason, 82, of Lansing, was ordered to pay $85,929 in restitution to the state and given five years of probation and one year in county jail – which is held in abeyance – by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina in the 30th District Court in Ingham County.

A judicial lien was also entered as part of the sentencing which requires property Mason owns in northern Michigan to be sold and the money applied to the restitution.

Between 2013 and 2015, Mason embezzled nearly $86,000 given to the state to construct the statue. She would have funds transferred to a non-profit and local community center’s bank accounts, both of which she had access to. The funds were to pay for the statue, but instead, Mason withdrew money from those accounts and made several transfers to her personal accounts to pay numerous credit cards.

Mason was charged in 2017 and pleaded guilty to one count of felony Embezzlement of $50,000 or More but Less Than $100,000 in October 2018.

 “State employees are expected to act in the best interest of the residents of this state,” Nessel said. “Ms. Mason’s actions were a substantial breach in public trust and blatant abuse of power. I’m thankful the funds she wrongfully stole are finally being restored.”