A retired nun has pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzling more than $835,000 from a southern California Catholic school to pay for "personal expenses," including gambling.
The press release from the Department of Justice on Tuesday states:
"Federal prosecutors today filed charges against a now-retired nun who was the principal of a Catholic elementary school in Torrance and who has agreed to plead guilty to fraud and money laundering charges for stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips.
Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, of Los Angeles, was charged today with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. In conjunction with the criminal information, prosecutors filed a plea agreement in which Kreuper agreed to plead guilty to the two charges that carry a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in federal prison."
The investigation was reportedly carried out by the Torrance Police Department, the FBI, and IRS Criminal Investigation.
According to their probe, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James Catholic School for ten years, ending in September 2018. Kreuper was in charge of the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as charity gifts, throughout her 28-year tenure as principal. She had accounts at a credit union, including a savings account for the school and one set up to cover the nuns' living expenditure.
Kreuper, who had made the vow of poverty, transferred school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account, then, as she confessed, used the money "to pay for expenses that the order would not have approved, much less paid for, including large gambling expenses incurred at casinos and certain credit card charges."
Kreuper also admitted in her plea agreement that she had falsified the school administration's monthly and yearly reports, and "lulled St. James School and the Administration into believing that the school's finances were being properly accounted for and its financial assets properly safeguarded, which, in turn, allowed defendant Kreuper to maintain her access and control of the school's finances and accounts and, thus, continue operating the fraudulent scheme."
The criminal statement further claims that Kreuper has ordered St. James School personnel during a school audit to modify and destroy financial data.
During the course of her scheme, the accused nun would have cost St. James Catholic School $835,339 in losses.
She will appear for arraignment on 1 July in the United States District Court.
Back in 2018, Kreuper and her closest friend Lana Chang, who retired earlier that year, were accused of "misappropriation of money," reports Newstalk.
The nuns' order -the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet- said in a statement: "Our community is concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any injury to our long relationship with the families of the school. The Sisters of St Joseph both desire and intend to make complete restitution to St James School."
According to AFP, school administrators said in a letter to parents that they do not intend to seek criminal charges against the two nuns.
St. James parents and alumni, however, told KTTV-TV that they hoped the school would pursue criminal charges against Kreuper and Chang. The issue, according to one parent is "crazy" and "very disturbing."