Who is Mary Margaret Kreuper? California nun, 79, to admit to stealing $835K from school funds

The now-retired nun agreed to plead guilty for money laundering charges and fraud that carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison


                            Who is Mary Margaret Kreuper? California nun, 79, to admit to stealing $835K from school funds
Mary Margaret Kreuper, now-retired principal of St. James Catholic School pleaded guilty for embezzling school money to fund gambling trips (Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Mary Margaret Kreuper, a now-retired nun and a Los Angeles resident was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on Tuesday, June 8. She has agreed to plead guilty to the charges for embezzling more than $835,000 from the funds of St. James Catholic School where she served as principal a couple of years ago, to pay for her personal expenses. These also include her gambling trips, revealed federal prosecutors. 

The charges against the 79-year-old were leveled on Tuesday, June 8, and prosecutors at the same time filed a plea agreement. Kreuper agreed to both charges which carry a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in federal prison. According to legal documents, Kreuper embezzled money from the school over a period of 10 years ending in September 2018. Kreuper's embezzlement is nothing like what goes in the political circles of the country. Earlier in January this year, former president Donald Trump pardoned Steve Bannon who was facing a federal case when he was charged with defrauding donors of more than a million dollars as part of a fundraising campaign to build the US-Mexico border wall. Bannon along with Philip Esformes, 52, a businessman from Florida, who was sentenced for orchestrating a $1B Medicare fraud scheme, spent New Year's Eve as a free man They were part of Trump's long list of pardons and commutations granted to more than 200 convicts in the final days of his presidency.

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Margaret Mary Kreuper has pled guilty to embezzling $835,000 from St. James Catholic School to fund gambling trips and personal expenses  (St. James Catholic Church)

 

Who is Mary Margaret Kreuper?

Mary Margaret Kreuper was the principal of the elementary school for 28 years. While at the organization, she was responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees as well as charitable donations. Kreuper controlled accounts at a credit union, including a savings account for the school and one established to pay the living expenses of the nuns employed by the school, according to the US Attorney's Office, California. Kreuper, as a nun, had taken a vow of poverty and diverted school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account. 

“She became a nun when she was 18 years old, and for the next 59 years she dedicated her life to helping others and educating children in archdiocesan schools,” Kreuper’s attorneys wrote. “Unfortunately, later in her life she has been suffering from a mental illness that clouded her judgement and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done.” They declined to go into further detail about any illness their client may have been diagnosed with, according to a report by Daily Breeze.

In the plea agreement, she admitted to having used the 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.” Kreuper also admitted that she falsified monthly and annual reports to the school administration to cover up her fraudulent conduct. Documents state, 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.” 

Margaret Mary Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang were accused of embezzling tuition, fees, and donations made in favor of St. James Catholic School to fund their gambling trips (Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet)

Kreuper is also accused of directing St. James School employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit. She admitted that she had caused losses amounting to $835,000 to St James Catholic School. She will appear for an arraignment at the United States District Court on July 1. The investigation into this matter is being conducted by the Torrance Police Department, the FBI, and IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Poonam G Kumar of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting the case. 

According to Press-Telegram, the embezzlement scandal also involves Sister Lana Chang who taught eighth-grade students at the elementary school came to light after a routine audit of procedures that were conducted ahead of Kreuper's retirement. The revelation came as a rude shock to parents who were led to believe that school was struggling to stay afloat because of a lack of funds. Church monsignor Michael Myers addressed a crowd of a few hundred people saying the archdiocese had launched an investigation into the matter after Kreuper became "very nervous and very anxious" about her financial review and asked for records to be altered.

Chang and Kreuper's scheme was exposed after an internal auditor confirmed the church's suspicions. Myers said both the nuns had confessed to their crimes. In a letter addressed to parents and parishioners, he wrote, "Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana have expressed to me and asked that I convey to you, the deep remorse they each feel for their actions and ask for your forgiveness and prayers. They and their order pray that you have not lost trust or faith in the educators and administrators of the school."

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to which the Chang and Kreuper belonged to had released a statement after their scheme came to light in 2018. "The Sisters have confirmed the misappropriation of funds and have cooperated in the investigation. Our community is concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any injury to our long relationship with the families of the school. The Sisters of St. Joseph both desire and intend to make complete restitution to St. James School."