Calif. Nun, 80, Sentenced for Stealing More than $800K from Catholic School to Fund Gambling Addiction

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper pleaded guilty for using funds to pay for gambling trips to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Temecula

Mary Margaret Kreuper
Photo: Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Despite taking a vow of poverty, an 80-year-old nun was sentenced on Monday for stealing more than $800,000 to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips.

Mary Margaret Kreuper of Los Angeles was sentenced to one year and a day in prison after pleading guilty in July 2021 to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

"I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses," Kreuper told U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, Los Angeles Times reported. "I was wrong, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain and the suffering that I have caused so many people."

For a period of 10 years starting in 2008, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James Catholic School where she was the school's principal, a position she held for 28 years.

She diverted school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account, which were used "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," the Department of Justice stated.

Kreuper stole about $83,000 per year, which is the equivalent of tuition for 14 students, prosecutors argued. In addition to stealing $835,339, she falsified monthly and annual reports, and instructed employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit.

Before Kreuper was sentenced, parents of children attending St. James and former students sent letters about Kreuper's role at the school and the impact of her actions.

Kevin Kearns, who enrolled his son in kindergarten in 2011, says he has used this as a teachable moment and asked for leniency for Kreuper, the LA Times reported.

"The church tells us to forgive those who have trespassed against us," Kearns said. "I've used this to teach my son that we're all human, we all make mistakes, but the power of forgiveness is the most powerful tool that we have."

But a 12-year-old said Kreuper was "just like any other robber."

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Kreuper's attorney Mark Byrne explained that his client, who retired in 2018, has been under strict supervision at her convent. He added that an expert report explained she had a gambling addiction.

"This is not an excuse for what she did," he said. "This is merely an explanation."

Kreuper, who used funds to pay for trips to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Temecula, says she will use the rest of her days trying to make amends.

"I apologize for the public scandal, the embarrassment and the financial burden that I have placed on the sisters in my religious community, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, St. James School, the parishioners, parents and students who placed their trust in me," she said.

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