Two longtime nuns at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., allegedly embezzled as much as $500,000 in tuition, fees and donations from the church.
While the nuns told others that their frequent vacations and trips to casinos were gifts from a rich uncle, parents of the school’s students were allegedly footing the bill, all while being told the school was operating on a tight budget, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
The school notified police that Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang, whom many described as best friends and who had both retired this year, were allegedly “involved in the personal use of a substantial amount of school funds,” according to the Press-Telegram.
Kreuper was principal of the kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and Chang was a teacher. The former handled tuition checks and fees for the school, and for at least 10 years, she allegedly deposited them into a “long forgotten” church bank account that was initially opened in 1997. Only she and Chang knew about the account, according to the Press-Telegram. Kreuper allegedly withheld some of the checks from the bookkeeping staff and deposited them into the account, endorsing them with a stamp that read “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.”
According to officials, the nuns used a majority of the money for “personal gain”; however, some of it was recycled back into the school.
While parents were under the impression that the school was operating on a tight budget, the six-figure amount that the pair allegedly embezzled is apparently only what auditors have been able to trace in bank records that date back only six years, the Press-Telegram reported.
The revelation came to light during financial reviews in connection with a change of leadership at the school, according to a letter sent to parents, as reported by the Daily Breeze.
While the archdiocese is cooperating with police, it is unwilling to be a “complaining party.” The two nuns showed remorse, and the archdiocese and the church are not pursuing criminal charges.
Paul Eakins, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said, “Our office doesn’t decline to charge simply because the victim’s future cooperation is problematical. However, if a victim is not presently cooperating, we may consider that as a factor in determining whether a case can be successfully prosecuted.”
According to the archdiocese’s lawyer Marge Graf, the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has agreed to pay the school full restitution and impose “severe sanctions” on the two nuns.
Kreuper and Chang have since been removed from ministry and moved to separate convents.
The Office of the General Counsel of the archdiocese did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
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