An elderly nun who stole more than $800,000 to bankroll a gambling habit and to fund lavish vacations was sentenced to spend a year in prison on Monday.
Mary Margaret Kreuper, who swore to a life of poverty when she took her vows six decades ago, was sentenced to one year and one day for fraud and money laundering charges.
Kreuper Fradulently Embezzled Funds from Catholic School Where She was a Principal
The 80-year old nun also was also ordered to pay a total of $835,339 in restitution for the money she embezzled while she was a principal at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif.
Prosecutors said Kreuper, who was the school's principal for nearly three decades, diverted funds, including tuition money, fees and charitable donations made to the school, to pay for her gambling expenses in Las Vegas. She also used the funds to take luxury trips to swanky resorts in Lake Tahoe, a popular tourist destination straddling the border of California and Nevada.
Kreuper was a signatory on a pair of credit union accounts -- a school savings account and a "convent" account to pay for living expenses for herself and others nun at the school, according to court documents. However, Kreuper "fraudulently diverted" checks and cash intended for the school into the two accounts she controlled to pay for her gambling expenses as well as credit card charges.
Kreuper plead guilty to the charges in July and also admitted she falsified monthly and annual reports to the school administration, and told employees to cover up her fraudulent conduct.
Kreuper Argued Priests were Better Paid Than Nuns When She Got Caught
"I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses," Kreuper told the court, according to The Los Angeles Times. She said her crimes were "a violation of my vows, the commandments, the law, and above all the sacred trust that so many had placed in me."
The Times reported that when she was initially confronted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Kreuper argued that priests were better paid than nuns and that she thought she deserved a raise.
Mark Byrne, Kreuper's attorney, acknowledged that Kreuper "abused her trust," but called on the judge to sentence her to probation. Byrne told the judge that the nuns in her order have kept her under "severe restriction" at a convent for three years.
"She doesn't have anywhere to go," he said. "She's 80 years old. She doesn't have any money. She's obviously not employable." Byrne also cited an expert report finding that Kreuper was addicted to gambling. "This is not an excuse for what she did," he said. "This is merely an explanation."
Kreuper was released under her own recognizance but will have to turn herself in to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by June 7 to begin her sentence.