KALAMAZOO, Mich. — An employee of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo's Immigration Assistance Program was sentenced Monday to 33 months in prison for stealing money from immigrants whom she was helping to gain U.S. citizenship, according to the Western District of Michigan Attorney's office.
Monica Mazei pleaded guilty to charges for wire fraud in October of 2019. She admitted that from 2015 to 2019 she collected fees from certain clients and promised to process their petitions for citizenship. But instead, she embezzled their money and did not send in their paperwork.
She managed to conceal the crime by not opening files for the clients she was defrauding. In some cases, she managed to persuade her clients to give her blank checks or money orders, which she would then write her name on as the payee and deposit the money into her personal accounts. Other times, she would request cash which she kept for herself.
The judge ordered Mazei to pay nearly $59,000 to repay her victims.
Mazei is an immigrant herself. She is from Ecuador and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1999.
"[She] was given an opportunity to live the American dream, but she cashed in on the dreams of others to line her own pockets," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge.
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