Two nuns accused of embezzling $500,000 in tuition fees and donations from a hard-up Catholic School in California — some of which they blew on gambling trips — have apparently been absolved of their sins.
Parents at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Los Angeles County, have expressed dismay at the archdiocese’s decision not to press charges against Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the school’s former principal, and Sister Lana Chang, a former teacher. Both retired earlier this year.
The nuns — who took vows of poverty when they entered their order, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — were best friends and were known to enjoy taking gambling trips to casinos together, church officials said.
The nuns claimed these junkets were bankrolled by a wealthy relative, whereas in reality they were skimming the school’s money while running the institution on a shoestring.
Officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents at a meeting this week that the embezzlement had been going on for at least ten years until an internal investigation blew the lid off the racket.
According to Monsignor Michael Meyers, Kreuper reportedly became “very nervous and very anxious” when she heard about the standard audit, which was being conducted because she was about to retire after 28 years as principal.
The audit uncovered a long-forgotten account known only to Kreuper and Chang, into which Kreuper would divert checks made out to the school.
The figure of $500,000 represents only the amount stolen in the last six years, since the bank’s records for the account only go back to 2012.
Confession and Absolution
The nuns confessed to the crime after the diocese hired an ex-FBI investigator to grill staff members at the school. But the diocese has said it will not be a “complaining party” in the case because the sisters have expressed remorse and the nun’s order has agreed to repay the money that auditors have identified as missing, while imposing “severe sanctions” on the nuns.
Many parents told The Daily Breeze they were angry about the decision not to press charges, noting that a lay person in the same position would likely face a lengthy prison sentence. Others are demanding that the money from the restitution be used to build facilities that had been denied to the children by Kreuper when she claimed the school couldn’t afford them.
One parent, Jack Alexander, told the Southern California News Group that some parents are considering going to police as a complaining party themselves.
“We were an ATM, and people know it, and they won’t ask for justice,” he said.