Posted on: February 7, 2022, 04:39h.
Last updated on: February 7, 2022, 04:39h.
A nun with a habit for gambling that led to the embezzlement of at least $835,000 from a California elementary school was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment Monday.
Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, admitted stealing the money from St James Catholic School in the L.A. suburb of Torrance, where she was school principal for nearly 30 years.
Despite taking a vow of poverty when she joined her order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Kreuper blew thousands of dollars on gambling trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.
The money was embezzled over a period of ten years and should have gone to improving facilities at the hard-up school.
An internal audit blew the lid off the racket in June 2018, just as Kreuper was about to retire.
She confessed to an ex-FBI investigator, hired by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to grill staff about the missing money.
Absolved by Archdiocese
But parents at the school were up in arms when Kreuper was initially absolved of her sins. The archdiocese decided not to pursue criminal charges because she had “expressed remorse.”
In December 2018, parents told The Daily Breeze that a lay person accused of the same crime would be looking at a hefty prison sentence. The parents went to the police as a complaining party.
In her defense, lawyers for Kreuper argued she “accepted full responsibility for what she had done” when confronted by the archdiocese.
But prosecutors disagreed. They said she had tried to justify her actions by saying priests were better paid than nuns and she deserved a raise.
She also directed school employees to alter and destroy financial records while the incriminating audit was in process.
The government asked for two years imprisonment.
Some Parents Wanted Harsher Sentence
The L.A. Times reports that some parents were willing to forgive and forget. But others wanted the court to mete out the full force of the law, 20 years.
One couple, Phil and Debby Rhilebinger, complained they had lived on a shoestring while paying for their five children to attend the school. Kreuper stole at least $45,000 from their payments.
At a plea hearing last year, US District Judge Otis D. Wright II made the extraordinary statement that he did not “look on nuns as ordinary people” because he was raised a Catholic and educated in convent schools.
Prosecutors responded with a memo to the judge quoting a 12-year-old pupil who had written that Kreuper was “just like any other robber.”