KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A former employee at the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo is under investigation for allegedly ripping off undocumented immigrants who came to her for help.
The former employee would allegedly take payment to file immigration paperwork so people could stay in the country, but she never did the work.
Officials wouldn’t say how much police think the woman may have made off with or how the alleged fraud was uncovered. The diocese did say in a Thursday press release that it is working closely with local authorities to identify victims.
The 46-year-old employee, who had been there 18 years, left her job between four and six weeks ago. About a month ago, the diocese posted a statement on its website about financial irregularities in the immigration assistance program.
“We are heartbroken,” Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center said. “Immigrants are so vulnerable to fraud because our immigration system is so complex and confusing that it is just so disappointing that a trusted community institution would be in this position.”
No charges have been filed. Kalamazoo police say the investigation is in its early stages. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not confirm or deny involvement.
The diocese says its immigration assistance program helps about 250 people annually. It says those services are only available at the main office at 219 W. Westnedge Ave. in Kalamazoo. Officials note they will never offer to meet potential clients at their home or any other public place.
The Immigration Assistance Program services previously offered by the diocese at the Department of Health and Human Services in Hartford have been suspended, a press release notes.
Anyone wishing to use the Immigration Assistance Program of the Diocese of Kalamazoo should call 269.385.1019. The program has open consultations at their office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and appointments can be scheduled Tuesday through Friday during office hours.
—24 Hour News 8’s Susan Samples contributed to this report.