Despite her vow of poverty, a California nun embezzled funds from the Roman Catholic school she ran in order to fund her gambling habit, according to federal prosecutors. Now Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, is set to spend a year and a day in prison followed by two years of supervised release.
She must also pay $825,338 in restitution, covering most of the losses of $835,339 from St. James Catholic School in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. At about $83,000 a year, the amount matches the tuition of 14 students a year, prosecutors said.
Kreuper had pleaded guilty in July to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering. According to authorities, she spent 10 years embezzling money from St. James Catholic School where she served as principal.
For 10 years until September 2018, prosecutors say she bilked the facility for money. When it was all over, she had been principal for a total of 28 years, they said. Not all of the years appear to have involved alleged financial crimes.
Pursuant to her position and title, Kreuper had legitimate control of the school’s money for tuition and fees as well as donations.
“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,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
Of course, none of her control legitimately extended to using school funds for “large gambling expenses incurred at casinos and certain credit card charges,” but that is what Kreuper did. She convinced school administration into thinking everything was on the up and up. As part of her efforts to suppress everything, she got school employees to change and destroy financial records during a school audit.
“I have sinned,” Kreuper said during a Monday teleconference, according to The New York Daily News. “I’ve broken the law and I have no excuses. My actions were in violation of my vows, my commandments, the law and, above all, the sacred trust that so many had placed in me. I was wrong and I’m profoundly sorry for the pain and suffering I’ve caused so many people.”
Kreuper has paid back $10,000 of what she owes, according to The Long Beach Press-Telegram. Some parents at her hearing said their children felt betrayed by her decision to take their tuition money. One former student said Kreuper violated her trust and contributed to her decision to leave the Catholic Church.
Parent and former school secretary Cheryl Hugo reportedly called Kreuper’s actions “an abuse of power in every possible way.”
Judge Otis D. Wright II, however, said that the majority of letters to the court from people like coworkers, church leaders, parents, and former students pushed for a lighter sentence. As far as parent Kevin Kearns was concerned, there were no hard feelings about the embezzlement.
“I don’t feel that I’m a victim in this case,” he said. “I got exactly what I paid for. My son got the best education possible, in fact, I probably would’ve paid double the tuition rate in order for my son to attend St. James.”
Online prison records do not yet show Kreuper in federal custody. Her deadline to show up for incarceration is noon on June 7.
[Screenshot via KABC-TV]
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