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80-year-old nun gets year in prison for stealing $835,000 from school to pay for gambling habit: "I have sinned"

A Los Angeles nun and school principal who stole more than $800,000 to pay for a gambling habit was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison. Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, admitted to stealing the money from 2008 to 2018 while she was principal at St. James Catholic School in the LA suburb of Torrance.

She pleaded guilty last July to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering.

U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II also ordered Kreuper to pay back the school approximately $835,000 as restitution, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.

Mary Margaret Kreuper CBS Los Angeles

"I have sinned, I've broken the law and I have no excuses," Kreuper said via teleconference. "My actions were in violation of my vows, my commandments, the law and, above all, the sacred trust that so many had placed in me. I was wrong and I'm profoundly sorry for the pain and suffering I've caused so many people."

Prosecutors said in a plea agreement that the now-retired elementary school principal acknowledged that she embezzled donations, tuition and fees.

In her plea agreement, Kreuper acknowledged diverting money to pay for personal expenses that included credit card charges and "large gambling expenses incurred at casinos," the U.S. attorney's office said.

CBS Los Angeles reported 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."

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