Crime

Two nuns stole $500K from a California Catholic school and blew it gambling in Las Vegas

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang were longtime fixtures at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, but their tenures apparently acted as good cover as they embezzled as much as $500,000 from the school and used it on trips and casino gambling binges — all while telling parents that the school was operating on a shoe-string budget, according to a report from the Press Telegram.

The scheme was blown wide open after a change in leadership at the school prompted a financial review. When red flags went up, the parish alerted the Torrance police department, but the archdiocese reportedly does not intend to pursue criminal charges against the pair. Kreuper was the school’s principal, and Chang was an 8th-grade teacher there.

From the Press Telegram:

The figure represents only what auditors have been able to trace in six years’ of bank records and might not include other cash transactions, officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents and alumni at a meeting Monday night at St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach.

Michael Meyers, the church’s monsignor, told the crowd of a few hundred people that the archdiocese launched an internal investigation six months ago after the organization performed a standard audit of procedures ahead of Kreuper’s retirement after 28 years at the school.

Around the same time, Meyers said, a family happened to request a copy of a check made out to the school, and the staff noticed it had been deposited in a bank account other than the school’s.

Not everyone agrees with the decision not to file charges against the pair.

“We were an ATM, and people know it and they won’t ask for justice,” Jack Alexander, a parent at St. James, told the Southern California News Group.

Parents who spoke to the Press-Telegram said that they knew the nuns went on gambling trips, but were told that the trips were funded by gifts from a wealthy uncle.

“These nuns took a vow of poverty and said, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got a rich uncle,’ ” Alexander said. “The rich uncle was the parents of the St. James students.”

When the pair was confronted about their scheme, they reportedly admitted to it right away.

“Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana have expressed to me and asked that I convey to you, the deep remorse they each feel for their actions and ask for your forgiveness and prayers,” Monsignor Meyers wrote in a letter to the parents and parishioners. “They and their order pray that you have not lost trust or faith in the educators and administrators of the school.”

The archdiocese is cooperating with authorities, but is refusing to be a “complaining party,” reportedly because the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has agreed to fully reimburse the school and impose “severe sanctions” on Kreuper and Chang.

Featured image via screen shot (ABC News)

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