Gambling away funds for elementary schools resulted in an elderly nun's imprisonment.
Reciting her penance from prison will be a disgraced nun who stole money from a Los Angeles Catholic elementary school and went on Vegas gambling sprees.
On Monday, Los Angeles nun Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on charges of fraud and money laundering. Another $825,338.57 in restitution must be paid to St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., where the 80-year-old nun was principal.
Since 2008, Kreuper has been accused of using school funds to pay for casino trips and credit card charges, which her religious order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, wouldn't have approved, according to prosecutors.
During Monday's sentencing, Kreuper apologized to the community and made a Hail Mary plea for leniency to the judge.
According to the LA Times, Kreuper told the judge, "I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses."
US Assistant Attorney Poonam Kumar told the Post that the wayward nun frequently traveled to Southern California's gambling hot spots such as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Temecula, and other locations. The elementary school's money was spent on Kreuper's trips, which she even took other nuns on.
During her first meeting with the LA Archdiocese and even before law enforcement got involved, she said she did it in part due to her belief that priests earn more than nuns," Kumar said in an interview with the New York Times.
Kreuper used school funds for gambling trips while asking parents to donate extra money on top of their $6,000 yearly tuition, which he did.
Kumar said, "This was really an abuse of trust, right?" "She was the school's principal," he said. When these parents decided to send their children to her school, she was running it for more than just academic reasons. Letters cited in many of my articles... Many of the people who spoke at the event expressed a desire for their children to receive a better education.
As a result, they were looking for a Catholic school where they could receive an education that aligned with their own personal morals and values. There were a significant number of parents who were clearly upset and feeling betrayed by the situation. Parents today talked about how their children no longer attend church."
Kreuper admitted falsifying monthly and annual reports to the school administration and telling employees to cover up her fraudulent conduct when she pleaded guilty to the charges in July.
According to Kumar, Kreuper was able to evade detection for so long because she was able to divert tuition checks and other funds to two old bank accounts that other school administrators were unaware of. Crooked nuns deposit checks into the secret bank accounts before they are even counted by staff while they are being cashed and accounted for.
For the most part, she was able to keep them a secret from the administration, which had no idea what she was doing with the extra money she had access to.
After the nun announced she would step down as principal in 2018, an informal audit of the school revealed Kreuper's scheme, according to Kumar. When Kreuper became nervous, he instructed two employees to destroy documents and instruct them not to tell auditors that certain documents were missing.
According to Kumar, the parish's monsignor was informed by the employees who worked there about Kreuper.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said during Monday's sentencing that he, too, struggled to find the proper sentence for the nun and even referred to her as "one heck of a teacher."
You can be proud of that," the LA Times quotes Wright as saying. You did run off the road, but I think you understand where I'm coming from. "At the very least, I hope so."
It has been 54 years since Kreuper joined her order and has been an educator, according to Mark Byrne, her attorney. Former students of St. James Catholic School even wrote letters to the judge in support of their former teacher and principal, according to the man who made the claims.
According to Byrne, "we received a slew of letters" from people who were aware that their children's teacher had stolen money from them, and yet they still found it in their hearts to forgive the teacher. However, they didn't necessarily overlook, but rather asked to judge her life rather than the theft from St. James" (Catholic School). Sister Mary, on the other hand, declared that she was deeply repentant and humbled. The fact that she broke the law and accepted full responsibility for her actions speak volumes.
Kreuper was already subject to "some severe and onerous" restrictions, according to Byrne, from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Unless she is granted permission to leave the premises, she is not allowed to do so, and she must be accompanied by a person who knows where she is going, according to the defense attorney. "She's basically been driving her sisters to doctor's appointments and stuff like that for the last three and a half years. This is basically house arrest, which she agrees to," he continues.
Officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in a statement that school officials and others were cooperative in the investigation.
It was discovered in 2018 during a leadership transition that significant amounts of school funds had been misappropriated by Sister Mary Margaret while she served as principal, according to church officials. This matter has been thoroughly investigated by local and federal law enforcement agencies, for which both the Archdiocese and St. James Parish and School are grateful. We will keep all those affected by this in our thoughts and prayers.
Her one-year and one-day sentence will begin on June 7 if she does not turn herself in to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Upon her release, she will be under the watchful eye of Kumar for a period of two years.