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Financial Crime: ‘We continue to offer our prayers for all impacted by this matter’: Nun stole $835K from Catholic school to support gambling habit — sentenced to 1 year in prison


She must have forgotten that whole vow of poverty thing.

An 80-year-old nun has been sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for embezzling $835,000 from a Catholic elementary school where she held the position of principal in order to support her gambling habit.

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper pleaded guilty last summer to funneling money from the coffers of the St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California into her own pockets for a decade to cover her gambling debts.

Prosecutors said Kreuper had been the principal of the school for 28 years until she was caught taking tuition and charitable donation money in 2018. As principal, prosecutors said Kreuper had control over the school’s accounts.

Kreuper used the diverted funds “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,” prosecutors said in court papers. 

Unholy spending

To cover her tracks, prosecutors said Kreuper falsified financial reports she submitted to the school administration. Kreuper also directed school employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit, prosecutors said.

In all, prosecutors said Kreuper stole $835,339.

A message left with Kreuper’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned.

In court papers, prosecutors said that on an annualized basis of $83,000 a year, Kreuper stole the equivalent of tuition for 14 students. Several parents said in letters submitted to the judge that the school consistently lacked resources. One parent wrote that Kreuper repeatedly said the school had no money to replace an awning or pay for field trips. 

In addition to the prison sentence, Kreuper was ordered to pay $825,000 in restitution.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees the school, said that police were contacted after the theft came to light in 2018, “when financial reviews during a change in leadership showed a substantial amount of school funds had been misappropriated for personal use by Sister Mary Margaret during her tenure as school principal”

“The Archdiocese and St. James Parish and School are grateful to local and federal law enforcement agencies for their work in the investigation of this matter,” the statement read. “We continue to offer our prayers for all impacted by this matter.”

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