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Mary Margaret Kreuper,

80-year-old nun sentenced for stealing from school to pay for gambling

An 80-year-old nun said she has seen the error of her ways after being sentenced to federal prison for stealing $835,000 from the school where she worked to support her gambling habits.

Mary Margaret Kreuper, who was principal at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., also was ordered her to pay $825,338 in restitution. Court documents say she diverted school funds into the St. James Convent account and the St. James savings account and then used the funds “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.”

Announcing her sentencing, the judge said he struggled with weighing legal punishment against pleas for forgiveness from Catholic families whose children were taught at the school, adding that she told the judge she was “profoundly sorry” and would spend the rest of her life trying to follow “more closely in Christ’s footsteps.”

The Catholic Church diocese chose not to press charges against Sister Mary. Still, the Torrance Police Department, the FBI, and the IRS Criminal Investigation unit investigated the allegations against her.

“I have sinned, I’ve broken the law and I have no excuses,” Kreuper said. “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.”

The gambling nun pleaded guilty last July to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Kreuper — who was principal for 28 years and also responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as for charitable donations — embezzled money from the elementary school between 2008 and 2018.

“These funds were intended to further the students’ education, not fund (Kreuper’s) lifestyle,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum. “In their letters (to the court), several students and parents commented on how the school was lacking in resources. Another parent discussed (in a letter to the court) how (Kreuper) said there was no money for an awning at school and no money for field trips.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice