A retired California nun has agreed to plead guilty to stealing $835,339 from a Catholic elementary school where she was the principal — in part to fund her gambling habit.
Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, is charged with one count of money laundering and one count of wire fraud, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. It said she agreed to plead to both federal charges, which carry a maximum prison term of 40 years.
According to prosecutors, Kreuper was the principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance for 28 years and admitted to embezzling money from the institution for a decade, ending in 2018.
As principal, she was responsible for the money the school collected in tuition, fees, and charitable donations. She also managed several school bank accounts, including one set up to pay the living expenses of the nuns who worked there.
Instead of managing the money properly, prosecutors said Kreuper admitted to stealing the funds to gamble at casinos and pay her credit card bills. They said she acknowledged falsifying reports in order to hide her theft from school administrators.
The Justice Department said Kreuper also directed St. James school employees to destroy financial records during an audit.
Kreuper is scheduled to make her first court appearance during a July 1 arraignment.
An investigation by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles found in 2018 that Keuper and another nun, Sister Lana Chang, embezzled money from the school. At the time, church and archdiocesan officials said they did not plan to push for criminal charges against the women.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles told the Los Angeles television station KTLA that only Kreuper was facing charges in the case and prosecutors considered the investigation closed.