Nuns steal $500,000 from school to gamble in Vegas
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA – December 11, 2018
Two Catholic school nuns in California admitted to embezzling about $500,000 and using the funds for travel and gambling in Las Vegas. The school does not want to press charges, but the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it will be a "complaining party."
Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang took money from tuition, fees and donations at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, south of Los Angeles.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the missing funds were discovered during a routine audit and it is believed the nuns stole the money from the school over at least a decade.
Auditors are still working to determine just how much money was misappropriated, she said, and the internal investigation could take weeks to complete.
"We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips. We do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account," an attorney for the school told parents and alumni at a recent meeting, Californian daily newspaper the Press-Telegram reported.
The alleged scheme, going back at least 10 years, surfaced after Kreuper and Chang retired from the small, K-8 school about six months ago, the officials said. After red flags were raised, the archdiocese launched an internal investigation and the nuns later admitted to wrongdoing and expressed remorse.
Kreuper was principal at the school for 29 years until she retired earlier this year. Chang was a teacher for 20 years and also retired this year.
The school's pastor, Monsignor Michael Meyers, said the school did not want to pursue criminal proceedings against the sisters and that no other school staff were involved in the scheme, adding that police had been alerted to the situation.
Meyers told parents in a letter dated November 28 that the nuns were cooperating with an investigation to determine the full amount of misappropriated funds.
A week ago, archdiocese officials told a gathering of parents and alumni that they would not seek charges against the nuns because the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, agreed to impose “severe sanctions” on them and pay the school full restitution.
But Torrance Sgt. Ronald Harris said officials from the archdiocese met with detectives on Thursday and said they now want the case prosecuted.
The request came just after details of the allegations surfaced in a Southern California News Group story. Many parents had been outraged that prosecution wasn’t being fully sought.
“They indicated they were desirous of pressing charges, so we’re moving forward as soon as we formally meet with them again,” Harris said of the archdiocese officials.
The archdiocese officially changed its mind by Monday, telling French news agency AFP it intended to act as a complaining party against the nuns. The Torrance Police Department is actively investigating.
In a statement to AFP, the Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the nuns' order, said: ”The Sisters of St. Joseph both desire and intend to make complete restitution to St. James School.”
Law enforcement has yet to say whether charges are forthcoming.
It’s unclear whether the restitution agreement with the order remains on the table.