(CMR) One of two nuns accused of embezzling funds from the school they worked in has been sentenced to one year in prison. Mary Margaret Kreuper, former principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, who had taken a vow of poverty, used money intended for the school she ran for almost 30 years to pay large gambling expenses incurred at casinos.
Kreuper (80) admitted to stealing more than $835,000 in school funds for gambling trips and personal expenses over 10 years. She was sentenced Monday to 12 months and a day in federal prison and was ordered to pay $825,338 in restitution by US District Judge Otis D. Wright II.
In July 2021, Kreuper, the former principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
Prosecutors said Kreuper “stole the equivalent of the tuition of 14 different students per year,” taking funds that “were intended to further the students' education, not fund (Kreuper's) lifestyle.”
Kreuper, who became a nun at 18 years old, reportedly falsified the school's financial reports to hide her embezzlement. When questioned by parents about the school's resources, she told them “there was no money for an awning at school and no money for field trips,” prosecutors said.
Her crime was revealed after her retirement was announced in 2018, and the Archdiocese began an audit of the school's finances to prepare for its change in leadership. Prosecutors said Kreuper directed her employees to alter and destroy financial records, but the employees reported her requests to other school administrators instead.
When confronted by the Archdiocese, the woman who served as a nun for 59 years reportedly said, “her actions were justified because priests were paid more than nuns.”
“She is very sorry for what she's done, very remorseful, very ashamed, very embarrassed and accepts full responsibility for her actions,” Kreuper's lawyer, Mark Byrne, told CNN.