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‘I have sinned’: Gambling nun gets year in jail for $835K theft from school

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REUTERS/Jim Young

An 80-year-old Catholic nun who stole $835,000 from the school where she served as principal and used the money for gambling, said she had “sinned” and would now try to follow “more closely in Christ’s footsteps” as she was sentenced to a year in federal prison.

Mary Margaret Kreuper, who was principal at St. James Catholic School in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who also ordered her to pay $825,338 in restitution, U.S. Attorney’s Office of Central District of California announced.

Court documents say she diverted school funds into the St. James Convent Account and the St. James Savings Account and then used the 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.”

Announcing her sentencing, the judge said he struggled with weighing legal punishment against pleas for forgiveness from Catholic families whose children were taught at the school, the BBC reported, adding that she told the judge she was “profoundly sorry” and would spend the rest of her life trying to follow “more closely in Christ’s footsteps.”

“I have sinned, I’ve broken the law and I have no excuses,” Kreuper said via teleconference, according to CBS News. “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.”

The nun pleaded guilty last July to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

The nun — who was principal for 28 years and also responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as for charitable donations — embezzled money from the elementary school between 2008 and 2018.

“These funds were intended to further the students’ education, not fund (Kreuper’s) lifestyle,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum. “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.”

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