A nun who embezzled more than $800,000 from a Catholic girl school to fund her gambling habit has been sentenced to only 366 days’ jail time, a far cry from the 40-year maximum sentence she faced for the crime…
Nun who embezzled tuition money from Torrance Catholic elementary school sentenced to one year in federal prison https://t.co/Wb5T7F4w8T
— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) February 7, 2022
As we reported last year, then 79-year-old Mary Margaret Kreuper pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering after stealing more than $835,000 of school funds, money which she used to fund her gambling habit and for personal expenses.
Kreuper, a school principal at St. James Catholic School in Torrance for over 28 years, admitted embezzling the money over a 10-year period, from 2008 to 2018.
Last week, she was sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison by US District Judge Otis D. Wright II, the leniency of the sentence raising some eyebrows, although Kreuper will also have to pay full restitution of $825,338.57.
Having supposedly taken a “vow of poverty” when she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Order of nuns, Kreuper had admitted last year to using the money for trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, involving “large gambling expenses incurred at casinos.”
While Kreuper was embezzling school funds for her own use, she was simultaneously asking parents of the school’s pupils – who already paid $6000 per head in tuition fees – to help fund activities such as field trips.
Prosecutors had asked that a two-year prison sentence be imposed, far short of the statutory maximum of 40 years that could have been handed down.
“On an annualized basis (approximately $83,000 per year), [Kreuper] stole the equivalent of the tuition of 14 different students per year,” a sentencing report stated.
Assistant United States Attorney Poonam G. Kumar of the Major Frauds Section, prosecuting the case, told the NY Post:
“This was really an abuse of position of trust, right. She was the principal.”
Kumar told the court:
“These funds were intended to further the students’ education, not fund [Kreuper’s] lifestyle. In their letters [to the court], several students and parents commented on how the school was lacking in resources… Another parent discussed [in a letter to the court] how [Kreuper] said there was no money for an awning at school and no money for field trips.”
Despite this, Judge Wright decided to show extreme leniency, describing Kreuper as “one heck of a teacher” who had “just ran completely off the road.”
Kreuper reportedly stated to the court, “I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses,” according to the NY Post.
The disgraced former nun will face two years’ supervision on her eventual release.