LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Mary Margaret Kreuper, a now-retired nun who was the principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance, has agreed to plead guilty to fraud and money laundering charges for stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The 79-year-old Los Angeles resident was charged Tuesday with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. At the same time, prosecutors filed a plea agreement in which Kreuper agreed to plead guilty to the two charges, which carry a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, Kreuper embezzled money from St. James for a period of 10 years ending in September 2018. Kreuper, who was principal at the elementary school for 28 years, was responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees as well as charitable donations. She also controlled accounts at a credit union, including a savings account for the school and one used to pay for the living expenses of the nuns employed by the school.
Kreuper, who had taken a vow of poverty, admitted in the plea agreement to diverting school funds into the St. James Convent account and the St. James savings account and then using the diverted funds "to pay for expenses that the order would not have approved, much less paid for, including large gambling expenses incurred at casinos and certain credit card charges."
She also admitted in the plea agreement to falsifying monthly and annual reports to the school's administration to cover up the fraudulent conduct and "lulled St. James School and the Administration into believing that the school's finances were being properly accounted for and its financial assets properly safeguarded, which, in turn, allowed defendant Kreuper to maintain her access and control of the school's finances and accounts and, thus, continue operating the fraudulent scheme."
Kreuper is also accused of directing St. James employees to alter and destroy financial records during a school audit.
Over the course of the scheme, Kreuper admitted to causing $825,339 in losses to St. James Catholic School.
She is scheduled to be arraigned July 1.
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