80-year-old charged with embezzling from statue fund

Maria Louisa Mason - photo courtesy: Michigan Attorney General's office

The former Executive Director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission faces embezzlement charges after she was accused of stealing money meant for a Cesar Chavez statue.

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office formally charged 80-year-old Maria Louisa Mason of Williamston today.

Schuette says Mason embezzled more than $73,500 between 2013 and 2015 and used the money to cover her credit cards, cell phone bills, shoes, even her taxes.

He says Mason arranged to have money raised for the statue transferred to a non-profit and a local community center where she had access to the funds.

Neither of those organizations used the money to build the statue of Chavez, a noted Hispanic civil rights leader. The statue has not been built.

The Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission is part of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The governor appoints the members, who choose the executive director.

Mason retired from her position with the commission at the end of 2015.

“I have said it before and will continue to, public officials are held to a higher standard,” Schuette said in a press release. “Ms. Mason was allegedly using funds dedicated to a memorial statue to instead fund her personal expenses and now she is facing the consequences.”

A judge set Mason’s bond at $10,000. She’s scheduled to be in court again at the end of the month.

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