Two nuns, one the principal and one a teacher at a Catholic school in Torrance, California, allegedly embezzled as much as $500,000 from the school’s tuition, fees and donations — and spent much of it gambling in Las Vegas.
According to The Press-Telegram, the alleged embezzlement by Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the principal at the St. James Catholic School for roughly 30 years, and Lana Chang, a teacher there for roughly 20 years, was found after an audit. The Press Telegram reported that the church’s monsignor, Michael Meyers, said the archdiocese had commenced an internal investigation six months ago after an audit before Kreuper’s retirement. Meyers added that one family happened to request a copy of a check that had been made out to the school; that prompted the discovery that it had been deposited in a bank account that wasn’t the school’s. Meyers said Kreuper became “very nervous and very anxious” about the financial review and asked that the record be changed.
The Press-Telegram outlined the procedure the nuns allegedly used:
Auditors told parents the “long forgotten” church bank account was opened in 1997 and that bank records before 2012 no longer exist. Only Kreuper and Chang knew about the account, they said. They described a system in which Kreuper handled all checks made out to the school for tuition and fees before handing them over to bookkeeping staff for processing. The principal allegedly withheld some of the checks and deposited them into the other account, endorsing the back with a stamp that read, “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.”
Francis Grimes of St. James Catholic Church told ABC 7, “They’re taking away the money from kids in school, from kids that need the money. To do that, it’s terrible.”
On Monday, the Archdiocese had a meeting for parents and alumni to discuss the issue. An attorney told parents and alumni, “We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips. We do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account,” according to NBC News.
After the discovery of the alleged embezzlement was made, the nuns apologized; the Press Telegram reported that the archdiocese and the church were not pursuing criminal charges. The Press-Telegram also stated that the nuns’ activities never aroused suspicions because the school always made a profit.
At the Monday meeting, archdiocese lawyer Marge Graf told parents that the archdiocese would not be a “complaining party.” Some parents were furious that the archdiocese would not press charges and were considering whether to form a group to create a complaining party to Torrance police. One parent stated, “We were an ATM, and people know it and they won’t ask for justice,” saying of the archdiocese, “They are trying to recapture money, not get justice.” He concluded, “These nuns took a vow of poverty and said, ‘Oh no, we’ve got a rich uncle.’ The rich uncle was the parents of the St. James students.”