Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the California nun who embezzled $835,000 from a Catholic elementary school to fund a gambling habit, is "very remorseful," her lawyers say. The 79-year-old agreed to plead guilty this week to federal charges that could send her to a federal prison for up to 40 years. Kreuper, who served as principal of the St. James Catholic School in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance from 1990 until her retirement in 2018, is "sorry for any harm she has caused," her lawyers said in a statement to the Washington Post Wednesday. Prosecutors say Kreuper diverted donations and tuition fees into a different account and used the funds for personal expenses, including large gambling expenses at Nevada casinos.
The fraud was uncovered as the school prepared for the change of leadership in 2018, the New York Times reports. Kreuper, who took a vow of poverty when she became a nun at age 18, admitted responsibility when she was confronted and has been cooperating with law enforcement, the lawyers said, adding that "later in her life she has been suffering from a mental illness that clouded her judgment and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done." Prosecutors say Kreuper admitted falsifying financial reports and ordering employees to destroy records during an audit. KTLA reports that another nun, Sister Lana Chang, was initially implicated in the scheme, but prosecutors say only Kreuper was charged and the investigation is now closed. (At a school fundraiser, one parent noticed Kreuper was "one hell of a poker player.")