LOS ANGELES – Federal prosecutors today filed charges against a now-retired nun who was the principal of a Catholic elementary school in Torrance and who has agreed to plead guilty to fraud and money laundering charges for stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips.
Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, of Los Angeles, was charged today with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. In conjunction with the criminal information, prosecutors filed a plea agreement in which Kreuper agreed to plead guilty to the two charges that carry a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
For a period of 10 years ending in September 2018, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James Catholic School. As principal – a position she held for 28 years – Kreuper was responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as for 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.
Kreuper, who as a nun had taken a vow of poverty, diverted school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account and then, as she admitted in her plea agreement, 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 further admitted in her plea agreement that she falsified monthly and annual reports to the school administration to cover up her fraudulent conduct and “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.” The criminal information also alleges that Kreuper directed St. James School employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit.