KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A former Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo employee has been indicted for allegedly embezzling money from immigrants she was supposed to be helping gain citizenship.
Monica Mazei used to work for the diocese’s immigration assistance program where she helped people apply for visas, work permits, permanent resident status and citizenship. She is accused of taking fees from people she was supposed to be helping and pocketing the cash without sending in their paperwork.
Investigators say she sometimes would ask for blank checks and money orders and wrote her own name in the payee line but would give a false receipt showing the client it had gone to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Mazei became a U.S. citizen in 1999 after immigrating from Ecuador.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo issued the following statement on Mazei’s indictment:
“This past March when diocesan officials discovered evidence of potential fraudulent activity, we dismissed the employee and immediately alerted local law enforcement and began distributing notice of this to outlets that reach potential affected parties. Additionally, we alerted the public through our April 18th news release so we could heighten awareness to those individuals who may have been negatively impacted.
“We are grateful for the diligence of both the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department as well as Homeland Security.
“The Diocese of Kalamazoo has a long-standing commitment to assist immigrants seeking a legal pathway to citizenship through its Immigration Assistance Program. The Diocese stands ready to assist in finding just and equitable resolutions for the victims of fraud in this matter.
“We continue to urge anyone with information in regards to this matter to contact Homeland Security Investigations 313-226-0500 and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety 269-488-8911.”
Anyone who thinks their own or family member’s application for immigration relief was denied or affected by Mazei’s actions is asked to contact the Homeland Security Investigation’s tip line at 1-866-347-2423.