KALAMAZOO, Michigan — A former Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo employee has been indicted on a federal wire fraud charge after allegedly defrauding immigrants she was supposed to be assisting.
Federal prosecutors contend that Monica Karina Mazei engaged in a scheme between 2015 and this year while assigned to help people apply for visas, work permits, permanent resident status and citizenship.
Prosecutors say she requested blank checks or money orders from her clients, wrote “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” in the payee line of the documents that she used as receipts, then wrote her own name on the checks and cashed them.
Mazei came to the United States from Ecuador and became a naturalized citizen in 1999.
“Mazei was given an opportunity to live the American dream herself, but she cashed in the dreams of others to line her own pockets.” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge.
The diocese said in a statement Thursday that the employee was fired when officials learned of the potential fraud earlier this year.
“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 18 news release so we could heighten awareness to those individuals who may have been negatively impacted,” the diocese said.
“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,” the statement continued.
Mazei did not return a call left on her phone.
Crux staff contributed to this report.
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