AP NEWS

Church immigration aide gets prison for defrauding people

February 3, 2020 GMT

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — An immigrant who worked for the Roman Catholic Church in Kalamazoo was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison Monday for stealing fees from other immigrants who sought help to stay or work in the country.

Monica Mazei, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ecuador, concealed the scheme by failing to open files for certain people and persuading them to give cash or blank checks and money orders, the government said.

Mazei was ordered to pay $59,000 to her victims, four months after pleading guilty to fraud. She worked in the Kalamazoo Diocese’s immigration assistance program.

“Ms. Mazei attributes the motivation for her conduct to her husband losing his employment, their separation and ultimately their divorce,” defense attorney James Stevenson Fisher said. “This period of her life was difficult — personally, emotionally and financially.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said a “substantial number of victims” who paid cash can’t be identified and won’t receive restitution.