As a Catholic nun, Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper made a vow of poverty.
But this week, prosecutors said Sister Mary Margaret, 79, had agreed to steal more than $ 835,000 from a Catholic primary school to support a gambling habit and to pay for other personal expenses.
Sister Mary Margaret was charged Tuesday with wire fraud and money laundering while she was the principal of the St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, opened the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California in a statement. She is expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles on July 1.
Sister Mary Margaret conceded to a ‘fraudulent plan’ in which she sued the St. ‘James School and the administration have been deceived into believing that the school’s financial affairs are properly accounted for and that the financial assets are properly protected,’ the prosecutors said.
She admitted that through the course of the scheme she suffered losses to the St. James Catholic School, which totaled $ 835,339. She retired in 2018 as principal, after 28 years in the role.
According to documents accompanying the plea agreement, Sister Mary Margaret diverted school funds to the school’s convent account and its federal credit union savings account and then used the money for ‘expenses that the order would not approve, even less’. including large gambling expenses at casinos in Nevada and credit card costs.
Sister Mary Margaret’s lawyers, Mark A. Byrne and Daniel V. Nixon, said she was ‘very sorry’.
“Once confronted, she accepted full responsibility for what she had done and cooperated fully with law enforcement and the archdiocese,” they said in a statement. They added that “she suffered from a mental illness that clouded her judgment and made her do what she would not have done otherwise.”
According to them, Sister Mary Margaret became a nun when she was 18, and for the next 59 years she devoted her life to ‘helping others and educating children in diocesan schools’.
Her religious order, Sisters of St. Joseph van Carondelet, who according to court documents paid for her living expenses, said in a statement on Wednesday that it would not comment until the legal process was completed.
She also admitted that she falsified monthly and annual financial reports, and that she told school staff to change and destroy financial records during an audit, the prosecutors’ statement and court documents read.
Concerns about the school’s finances began to increase as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began preparing for a change of leadership in 2018, the Archdiocese said in a statement. A financial review showed that a significant amount of school funds had been misused by Sister Mary Margaret for personal use, ‘he said.
In December 2018, after a meeting with the Archdiocese, the Torrance Police Department said that additional staff be devoted to examining evidence and locating people who have submitted tuition fees, account information or cash donations.
The archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday about Sister Mary Margaret’s plea that the revelations “shocked and saddened the community”.