Retired Nun Admits Embezzling $835,000 to Support Gambling Habit

A nun has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $835,000 in school funds, which she spent on gambling and other expenses.

Mary Margaret Kreuper admitted to taking the money from St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, over a period of 10 years, ending in September 2018.

She took advantage of her position as principal at the school, where she was responsible for its income, which consisted of tuition fees and charitable donations.

Her plea agreement from June 8 with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said the 79-year-old had diverted funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account.

Prosecutors filed federal wire fraud and money laundering charges against Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, for “stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips,” the Justice Department said.

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She used the money "to pay for expenses that the order would not have approved, much less paid for." These included: "Large gambling expenses incurred at casinos and certain credit card charges."

She said that she falsified monthly and annual reports to cover up her actions to assure the school's administration that its financial assets were in safe hands.

Prosecutors also said that Kreuper directed St. James School staff to alter and destroy financial records during an audit, and caused total losses of $835,339.

She pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges, which together carry a total of up to 40 years in federal prison.

A media statement issued last month by her attorneys, Mark A. Byrne and Daniel V. Nixon, said that Sister Mary Margaret had been "very remorseful" and had accepted full responsibility for what she had done.

"Unfortunately, later in her life she has been suffering from mental illness that clouded her judgment and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done," read the statement, which was carried by media outlets, "She is very sorry for any harm she has caused."

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said that: "The community of faith at St. James was shocked and saddened by these actions."

It said the parish, school and the Archdiocese: "Reported the matter and fully cooperated with authorities in the criminal investigation," adding: "We continue to offer our prayers for all impacted by this matter," CBS 9 reported.

Kreuper was part of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet order, which Newsweek has contacted for comment.

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II has set sentencing for February 7, 2022, when he would expect her to make a statement. "I don't have to worry about b.s. coming from you," he said from the bench when she appeared in court on Thursday.

Wright also said that as someone who had been educated by nuns, "unlike most cases, this one will be a struggle."

"I don't look at nuns as ordinary people," he said, according to FOX 6.

A nun at the Vatican
A nun is pictured at Vatican's Gregorian University. Retired nun Mary Margaret Kreuper, admitted to stealing money from St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California. GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty