An elderly nun has been sentenced to a year in jail after admitting that she stole over £600,000 from the school where she worked in order to finance gambling tips in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to one year and one day for fraud and money laundering charges.

She told the US District Court for Central California on Monday: “I have sinned, I have broken the law, and I have no excuses”.

However, when the charges were originally filed, lawyers acting for the former St. James Catholic School principal issued a statement saying Sister Mary Margaret suffered “from mental illness that clouded her judgment and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done”.

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Sister Mary Margaret, who took a vow of poverty when she became a nun, was ordered to repay a total of $825,338.57 (£600k)

Assistant. US Attorney Poonam Kumar told the New York Post that Sister Mary Margaret took frequent gambling trips to popular gambling resorts across Southern California and Nevada.

She even took fellow nuns on some of the trips, he said, running up bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. She also destroyed some of the school’s accounts to cover her tracks.

Kumar added that when Sister Mary Margaret’s embezzlement was discovered: “One of the things she said when she was first confronted by the L.A. Archdiocese and even before law enforcement got involved, was she did it in part because she believes priests get paid better than nuns”.

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As principal of a Catholic elementary school near Los Angeles, Sister Mary Margaret diverted $835,000 of school funds to pay for gambling holidays
As principal of a Catholic elementary school near Los Angeles, Sister Mary Margaret diverted $835,000 of school funds to pay for gambling holidays

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US District Judge Otis D. Wright II, himself raised a Catholic, said that he had struggled to find a suitable sentence in this case, noting that Sister Mary Margaret was “one heck of a teacher.”

Mitigating, Sister Mary Margaret’s attorney Mark Byrne said that while his client admitted she had “abused her trust,” the judge he should consider probation.

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Sister Mary Margaret retired last year
Sister Mary Margaret retired last year

For three years, he said, the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet have kept Sister Mary Margaret under “severe restrictions” at a convent.

“She doesn’t have anywhere to go,” he added. “She’s 80 years old. She doesn’t have any money. She’s obviously not employable.”

The judge said it was quite possible that conditions at the convent might be worse than “Club Fed”.

On Monday, February 7, Sister Mary Margaret was handed a sentence of one year and one day for fraud and money laundering charges.

The 80-year old, who has no savings and took a vow of poverty when she became a nun, was also was ordered to repay a total of $825,338.57 to St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California.



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