Californian diverted school funds to fund gambling trips
A retired California nun who eschewed her order’s vow of poverty has agreed to plead guilty to embezzling over $835,000 from a Catholic school to bankroll gambling trips and pay for personal expenses.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California on June 8 shared news of Mary Margaret Kreuper’s impending guilty plea via its official US Attorney L.A. Twitter feed:
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed charges against the 79-year-old on June 8. The ex-principal of St James Catholic School in Torrance, California 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”, a DOJ news release stated.
Vow of poverty broken
Kreuper, a Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet nun, had taken a vow of poverty. Despite this, she diverted school funds into the St James Convent Account and the St James Savings Account “to pay for expenses that the order would not have approved […] including large gambling expenses incurred at casinos,” the DOJ statement reads.
expenses that the order would not have approved
The nun’s embezzlement spree ran for ten years, ending in 2018. According to GQ magazine, Kreuper funneled donations into shell accounts that she and another nun working at the school, Sister Lana Chang, would use to fund trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.
Kreuper and Chang’s misdeeds became public knowledge in 2018. At the time, KCTV5News Kansas City shared on Facebook an excerpt from a letter church monsignor Michael Myers addressed to parents and parishioners, saying the sisters were asking for their “forgiveness and prayers”:
At the time, California newspaper the Daily Breeze quoted Myers as saying he had alerted an archdiocese internal auditor that “something was off” ahead of a financial review. The upcoming audit caused Kreuper to become “very nervous and very anxious”, Myers said.
Kreuper directed St James School employees to “alter and destroy financial records”
Tuesday’s DOJ statement said the criminal information also alleges that Kreuper directed St James School employees to “alter and destroy financial records during a school audit.”
Kreuper faces maximum jail term of 40 years
Kreuper, who has agreed to appear in US District Court for arraignment on July 1, is looking at up to 40 years in a federal prison for the charges. The FBI, Torrance Police Department, and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant US Attorney Poonam G. Kumar of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting the case against Kreuper.
It is uncertain what will happen to Sister Chang, or even if she is subject to any ongoing investigation.