A retired nun has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from a school and using some of the cash to gamble in Las Vegas.
Mary Margaret Kreuper is a 79-year-old retired nun from California. Contrary to the austere stereotypes that surround nuns, Kreuper faces serious charges of stealing more than $800,000 from a Catholic school.
The former principal at Torrance’s St. James Catholic School has pleaded guilty to the charges against her as part of a plea deal. The case claims that she stole from the school between 2008 and 2018, and she has been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
Kreuper was responsible for the money she received for tuition fees and donations during her 28 years as principal, but chose to embezzle this cash.
Despite a vow of poverty, the nun placed funds in the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account. After doing this, she frequently withdrew money for personal use and reportedly spent some of it on gambling ‘habit’.
As part of Kreuper’s plea agreement, it was noted that she spent 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’.
In terms of covering the unapproved expenditure, the plea agreement stated:
Kreuper 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.
On top of this, the nun allegedly made employees alter and destroy financial records during school audits.
Speaking on the nun’s behalf, Kreuper’s attorney Mark Byrne said, ‘Unfortunately, later in her life she has been suffering from a mental illness that clouded her judgment and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done.’
As per the Los Angeles Times, the archdiocese has also responded to the situation stating:
The community of faith at St. James was shocked and saddened by these actions and the parish, school and the archdiocese reported the matter and fully cooperated with authorities in the criminal investigation.
Kreuper now faces 40 years in federal prison for embezzling a total of $835,339. She will appear in United States District Court for an arraignment on July 1.