Retired Nun, 80, Gets a Year in Prison for Stealing $835,000 From School

An 80-year-old retired Catholic nun was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on Monday for embezzling $835,000 from the school where she served for 28 years as principal.

Mary Margaret Kreuper of Los Angeles spent the money on herself, including for trips to casinos, while telling parents of students there wasn’t enough money for school field trips or to fix awnings, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California.

”I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses,” Kreuper told District Judge Otis D. Wright II, according to the Los Angeles Times. ”I was wrong, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain and the suffering that I have caused so many people.

”I apologize for the public scandal, the embarrassment and the financial burden that I have placed on the sisters in my religious community, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, St. James School, the parishioners, parents and students who placed their trust in me,” Kreuper said.

Over a 10-year period ending in September 2018, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James Catholic School, according to the U.S. attorney.

”As principal — a position she held for 28 years — Kreuper was responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as for charitable donations,” the press release said.

”Kreuper controlled accounts at a credit union, including a savings account for the school and one established to pay the living expenses of the nuns employed by the school. ”

Although she took a vow of poverty as a nun, Kreuper diverted school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account, then used them ”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,” court documents say.

She falsified monthly and annual reports to school administrators 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 court documents say.

Kreuper also ordered school employees to destroy documents during an audit of the school.

”On an annualized basis (approximately $83,000 per year), [Kreuper] stole the equivalent of the tuition of 14 different students per year,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

”These funds were intended to further the students’ education, not fund [Kreuper’s] lifestyle. In their letters [to the court], several students and parents commented on how the school was lacking in resources.”

Kreuper’s attorney Mark Byrne said his client has been under strict supervision at her convent. An expert report found that she had a gambling addiction, he said.

”This is not an excuse for what she did,” Byrne said. ”This is merely an explanation.”

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