California Nun Pleads Guilty To Stealing $835K To Pay For Gambling Habit

Nun folding hands holding a rosary praying

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A retired nun from Los Angeles has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges for stealing over $800,000 from a Catholic school to fund her gambling habit. Prosecutors said that Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, used her position as principal at St. James Catholic School in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance to embezzle $835,000 in tuition and donations.

For ten years of her 28-year tenure as principal, Kreuper directed money from the school's bank accounts, including one that was "established to pay the living expenses of the nuns" into her own coffers.

School officials didn't realize she had been skimming money from their accounts until she retired in 2018.

"Without the knowledge and authorization of St. James School or the Administration, defendant Kreuper then used diverted 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," officials wrote in the indictment.

Kreuper admitted that she falsified the school's financial records to keep officials in the dark about her scheme. In one instance, she ordered school employees to destroy financial records during a routine audit.

"By falsifying these reports in this way, defendant Kreuper lulled St. James School and the Administration into believing 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, to continue operating the fraudulent scheme," the indictment said.

Kreuper was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering and faces up to 40 years behind bars.