School: Nuns Used 'Forgotten' Account, Stole Up to $500K

St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., says it's not pressing charges
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2018 4:33 AM CST
School: Nuns Used 'Forgotten' Account, Stole Up to $500K
The two nuns were described as best friends.   (Getty Images)

It wasn't a noteworthy request, but what it helped reveal was significant: A family asked for a copy of a check they had paid to a California Catholic school. But when the staff at St. James Catholic School in Torrance retrieved it, they realized it had been deposited into a different account—one opened in 1997 and "long forgotten" by all but two nuns, who the school now says used it to embezzle up to $500,000. Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the K-8 school's former principal, and Sister Lana Chang, were identified last Monday as the two involved. Long Beach Press-Telegram reports a forensic auditor discovered Kreuper would collect the tuition checks and then turn them over to the school's bookkeepers, allegedly withholding some and depositing them in the other account.

In last Monday's meeting with parents and alumni, archdiocese lawyer Marge Graf explained where those funds next went: "We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips, we do know they had a pattern of going to casinos"; the nuns reportedly told others a wealthy relative funded the getaways. Where the women won't be going is jail: Though Kreuper has reportedly admitted taking all the money and the school notified police of its findings, it and the archdiocese are declining to press charges. That's apparently because the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet will make full restitution on behalf of its sisters and slap them with "severe sanctions"; it's unclear if the order's arrangement stipulated no charges be filed. NBC News notes that in a Feb. 4 church newsletter about Kreuper's upcoming retirement, parishioners were urged to "thank her for her generous service." (More embezzlement stories.)

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