Retired Nun Allegedly Stole $835k from School to Pay For Gambling Trips

A retired nun and Catholic elementary school principal will plead guilty, after she allegedly stole over $835,000 from the school to pay for gambling trips and personal expenses.

Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, was charged Tuesday with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California.

Kreuper faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.

Kreuper was the principal of the St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California for 28 years. She retired in 2018 from the school that was overseen by the St. James church in Redondo Beach.

She allegedly began embezzling money from the accounts that she ran for the school. She was in charge of handling money received from charitable donations as well as tuition, according to the statement.

She also was responsible for managing financial accounts with a credit union for the school. A savings account and an account that was used to pay for the living expenses for the nuns at the school were both handled by Kreuper, the statement said.

Nun in church
A nun walks in the hall of the Vatican's Gregorian University on November 13, 2012 in Rome. A retired nun in California allegedly embezzled money from the Catholic school she worked at. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Kreuper allegedly stole from the accounts for 10 years, ending in September of 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The amount taken from the school totaled $835,339.

In the plea agreement, Kreuper admitted to using school 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."

She also admitted to covering up the missing funds by falsifying monthly and annual reports.

The plea agreement states that Kreuper "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 investigation uncovered that Kreuper also allegedly instructed employees of the school to get rid of or change school financial records while an audit was taking place at the school, officials said.

The Torrance Police Department, the FBI and the IRS began investigating the possible fraud at the Catholic school after an internal investigation in the school uncovered discrepancies.

The investigation implicated the then-teacher and vice-principal Lana Chang, but the Catholic church withheld pressing criminal charges on either of them, according to KTLA.

Kreuper agreed to appear in court on July 1 for her arraignment.

It is unclear as to whether Chang will also be charged.

Correction (6/9/2021, 6:00 p.m.): The headline of this article has been updated to correct the amount of money.