GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A woman has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for embezzling money from immigrants she was supposed to be helping obtain citizenship.
Monia Mazei worked for the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo’s immigration assistance program where she would help people apply for visas, work permits, permanent resident status and citizenship. Instead of taking the fees and using them to help process applications, she pocketed the money and didn’t send paperwork.
Investigators say she hid the scheme from the diocese by not opening files for the clients she was defrauding.
Mazei became a U.S. citizen in 1999 after immigrating from Ecuador.
She pleaded guilty in October to federal charges and admitted embezzling the money to federal investigators. On Monday, she was sentenced to 33 months in prison and to pay $58,998 in restitution to her victims.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo issued a statement on the case:
“The Diocese of Kalamazoo has a long-standing commitment to assist immigrants seeking a legal pathway to citizenship through its Immigration Assistance Program (IAP). We are devastated that our clients were defrauded by an individual misrepresenting the ministry during their time of employment. The IAP office continues to work with those individuals who were impacted and stands ready to assist all victims of fraud in this matter.
“We are grateful for the diligence of law enforcement as well as the U.S. Attorney General’s Office in bringing the legal matter to a resolution.”