It is believed that two nuns pocketed up to half a million dollars from a Catholic School in order to go to casinos.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that the nuns had told parents that the school in Torrance was operating on a shoestring budget.
The paper reports that the $500,000 figure "represents only what auditors have been able to trace in six years’ of bank records" - and that many more cash transactions may be unaccounted for.
Officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents and alumni gathered at a meeting in Redondo Beach after it came to light that now-retired Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang had been reported to the police.
CA: 2 Nuns Accused of Stealing ‘Substantial’ Amount of Money From South Bay Catholic School.— Dalton (@DaltonReport) December 1, 2018
Principal, Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, and teacher Sister Lana Chang.
“Substantial” amount of school funds for their personal use.https://t.co/nIiuz3JiDR
Sr. Kreuper was the school’s principal and Sr. Chang taught pupils. According to information obtained by the paper, "the nuns had expressed remorse, and the archdiocese and the church were not pursuing criminal charges."
Michael Meyers, the church’s monsignor, told the crowd of a few hundred people that the archdiocese had launched an internal investigation six months ago after a standard audit ahead of Kreuper’s retirement (after 28 years at the school) raised some red flags.
Meyers said that when a family requested a copy of a check made out to the school, staff noted it had been deposited in a bank account that did not belong to St. James. He noted that Sr. Kreuper also became “very nervous and very anxious” about the upcoming financial review and requested that the staff alter records.
"Parents said it was well-known that Kreuper and Chang traveled often and went gambling, but that they claimed they were gifted the trips by a rich relative. These nuns took a vow of poverty and said, ‘Oh no, we’ve got a rich uncle' The rich uncle was the parents of St. James."— I do miss the old names (@kittykaraoke) December 8, 2018
An independent forensic auditor was summoned for a more thorough review and confirmed Meyer's suspicions. He told the crowd that the "improper use of funds" had been going on for at least a decade.
It came to light that a "long forgotten" bank account - St. James Convent instead of St. James School - opened by the church in 1997 was being used for checks that Sr. Kreuper "withheld" from the bookkeeping staff.
The sisters used a majority of the money for “personal gain,” officials said.
When a parent asked what the money was spent on, an attorney said, “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.”
The nuns have been removed from the ministry. The archdiocese is cooperating with local police. Archdiocese lawyer Marge Graf told parents that the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has agreed to pay the school full restitution and impose “severe sanctions” on the two women.