Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Wednesday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Gambling nun sentenced to prison for stealing $835,000 from school


Michael Koukoullis CC

Zelda Caldwell - published on 02/08/22

Mary Margaret Kreuper, age 80, confessed to using the money to pay her gambling debts incurred at casinos.

A nun who stole $835,000 from the Catholic primary school where she served as principal for 28 years, was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison.

The now-retired nun, Mary Margaret Kreuper, age 80, confessed to stealing the money from St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California. She pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering.

According to a plea agreement filed last July, the former nun embezzled the money from donations, tuition and fees paid to the school. For over a decade, ending in 2018, Kreuper stole the money in order to pay her gambling debts incurred at Las Vegas casinos.

As principal, 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,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Kreuper falsified monthly and annual reports to the school administration 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,” according to court documents. A statement released by prosecutors, noted that Kreuper also directed St. James School employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit.

“I have sinned, I’ve broken the law and I have no excuses,” Kreuper said via  teleconference, as reported by

“My actions were in violation of my vows, my commandments, the law and, above all, the sacred trust that so many had placed in me. I was wrong and I’m profoundly sorry for the pain and suffering I’ve caused so many people,” she said.

“On an annualized basis (approximately $83,000 per year), [Kreuper] stole the equivalent of the tuition of 14 different students per year,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. 

“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,” prosecutors charged.

Lana Chang, another religious sister employed as a teacher at the school, was initially implicated in taking part in the scheme. According to a KTLA report, prosecutors are no longer pursuing the case against Chang, and consider the investigation closed.

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.