Two Catholic nuns could be in trouble with the law after being accused of taking $500,000 from a school in California.
Church officials at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, discovered Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang had been taking money earmarked for the school and used it to travel and to gamble at casinos.
The archdiocese of Los Angeles started an internal investigation after a family requested a copy of a check made out to the school. Staff at the school noticed that the check had been deposited in a bank account that didn’t belong to St. James Catholic, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
At the same time, the school was performing a standard audit of procedures due to Kreuper’s retirement. She had worked at St. James for 28 years.
Church Monsignor, Michael Meyers said that when Kreuper found out about the financial review, she got nervous and anxious, and requested that the staff alter the records. Meyers alerted an archdiocese internal auditor that something wasn’t right and Meyers said the auditor confirmed something was amiss. That’s when the archdiocese hired a forensic auditor to look deeper into the school’s records.
Meyers said that the improper use of money has been going back at least 10 years. He said the missing money wasn’t found because the parish and school have run in the black so no one caught the discrepancy, the Press-Telegram reported.
Meyers said that Kreuper admitted taking the money. She was the school principal and she kept some checks that were written to the school for tuition and fees, stamping them with the words that read “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.” She then allegedly deposited the money into an account that had been forgotten by all except for Kreuper and Chang.
Church officials said that they used most of the money for ‘personal gain,” but some was directed for use at the school, the newspaper reported.
The archdiocese is cooperating with Torrance police but will not file a complaint after the nuns’ order, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, agreed to pay the school full restitution. The order will also issue sanctions against Kreuper and Chang. Since the discovery, the two nuns, whom many described as best friends, have been sent to separate convents.
Parents are upset though charges have not been filed, saying that if the nuns were not part of the church, they would face the courts. Some said they would like to see the restitution be given to the teachers in the form of pay raises and used at the school for improvements, since Kreuper said the school couldn’t afford it while she was principal, according to the Press-Telegram.
Some parents also are contemplating joining together to be a complaining party and contact police to get charges filed.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney spokesperson said the DA’s office has not been contacted by police about a case. But police officials said that they will speak with prosecutors at some point.
The new principal has instituted an online tuition payment system, instead of parents writing checks to the school, the Press-Telegram reported.
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