Los Angeles Nun Gets Prison Sentence for Stealing $835K
She used tuition fees and donations for St. James Catholic School to gamble, take casino trips and pay her credit card charges.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 8, 2022: Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, was sentenced on Monday to one year and one day for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars while she was principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California. She will also need to pay $825,338.57 in restitution.
The money she embezzled was used by the nun to pay her gambling debts and credit card charges from 2008 to 2018, reports the New York Post. She apologized to the community during her sentencing.
Kreuper was principal at the school for 28 years. She was able to hide the thefts for years by diverting tuition checks and other funds to two old bank accounts that other school administrators didn’t know about. The scheme was uncovered during an audit.
ORIGINAL DECEMBER 11, 2018 ARTICLE:
Two nuns working at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., have allegedly taken as much as $500,000 in tuition, fees and donations.
That figure is only what auditors have been able to find in six years of bank records, reports the Press Telegram. With the scheme going on for as long as ten years, there could have been more transactions, especially if they paid with cash.
The small K-8 school announced that it had notified police saying Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang, who have worked at the school for decades, were “involved in the personal use of a substantial amount of school funds.”
Kreuper, who was the school’s principal, and Chang, who was a teacher, both retired earlier this year.
Officials say the nuns were using the money to pay for gambling and trips to Las Vegas, according to CBS News.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles initially did not want to criminally charge the nuns after the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, confirmed the nuns would pay the school full restitution.
However, after receiving pressure from parents and the media, the Archdiocese supports the case being prosecuted.
“They [officials of the Archdiocese] indicated they were desirous of pressing charges, so we’re moving forward as soon as we formally meet with them again,” said Torrance Sgt. Ronald Harris.
Current and past St. James parents have been going through bank records since learning of the embezzlement. Officials have found tuition checks were being deposited into an account the nuns were using personally.
One mother, Debby Rhilinger, has located $45,000 worth of checks that went to the suspicious account.
“We are completely devastated and feel very betrayed,” Rhilinger said.
Monsignor Michael Meyers assured parents in a statement that the embezzlement will not affect their children’s education.
“…no student or program at St. James has suffered any loss of educational resources, opportunities, or innovations,” he wrote.