Nun who admitted stealing more than $835,000 from Torrance Catholic school gets one year in jail

A nun who worked as the principal of a Catholic elementary school in Torrance was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay her personal expenses, officials said Monday.

Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, of Arlington Heights in Los Angeles, was also ordered to pay $825,338 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

She pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and money laundering last July.

For a 10-year period through September 2018, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James Catholic School in Torrance, where she served as principal for 28 years, officials said. The school is overseen by St. James Church of Redondo Beach.

She was responsible for charitable donations there, as well as the funds the school received to pay tuition and fees, officials said.

Kreuper also controlled accounts at a credit union, including a savings account for the school and another account to pay living expenses for nuns employed at the school.

Officials said she diverted school funds to the convent account and savings account, then used the diverted money to “pay expenses that the ordinance would not have approved, again.” less paid, including large gambling expenses incurred at casinos and some credit card fees,” the officials said.

Kreuper also admitted to falsifying monthly and annual reports to school administration in an effort to cover up the embezzlement.

Officials said Kreuper “ludled St. James School and the administration into believing that the school’s finances were properly accounted for and its financial assets were properly safeguarded, which, in turn, allowed Defendant Kreuper to retain access to and control over the school’s finances and accounts, and therefore continue to operate the fraudulent scheme.

Additionally, she ordered school employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit, according to the investigation.

Officials noted that Kreuper took a vow of poverty as a nun.

“On an annualized basis (approximately $83,000 per year), [Kreuper] stolen the equivalent of tuition from 14 different students a year,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “These funds were intended to continue the education of students, not to finance [Kreuper’s] way of life.”

Prosecutors also noted that several students and parents pointed out that the school lacked resources, while another parent said in a letter to the court that there was no money for a canopy at the school. school or for educational outings.

Initially involved in the scheme was Lana Chang, who worked as a teacher at the school before becoming vice principal. Asked about him, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said last year that only Kreuper was charged in the case and that the government considers the investigation closed.

Both women retired from school in 2018.

The embezzlement was uncovered after an internal investigation at the end of this year, but the church chose not to press charges against the women.

The Torrance Police Department, FBI, and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation into the allegations against Kreuper.

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