A Williamston woman is charged with felony embezzlement for allegedly using funds dedicated to a memorial statue to instead fund her personal expenses while working as a former state employee.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the charges Tuesday against 80-year-old Maria Louisa Mason, the same day she was arraigned in 54A District Court.

Mason is the former Executive Director of the Michigan Hispanic/Latino Commission within the Department of Civil Rights. Schuette’s Office says a complaint was filed with the Michigan State Police by the Department of Civil Rights after it was suspected that Mason had stolen money that had been given to the state to construct a Cesar Chavez Memorial statue in Lansing. MSP began an investigation that revealed Mason allegedly embezzled over $73,500 from February 2013 until June 2015 before retiring in December 2015.

It is alleged that Mason took State of Michigan money that had been given to the commission to build the memorial statue in Lansing. She arranged to have the funds transferred to a non-profit and a local community center. Mason allegedly had control of the bank accounts for both organizations. Neither used the money for the Chavez statute. Instead, Mason is accused of transferring the funds to her personal accounts and taking numerous cash withdrawals. The monument has not been built.

Mason is free on bond pending a pre-exam conference scheduled for April 27th. (JM)