A Nun Pleads Guilty to Stealing $800K in Funds to Finance Her Gambling Trips

If you've got a friend or a coworker who was taught by the nuns, you realize that they were brought up with two things they will have for the rest of their lives: Impeccably graceful cursive penmanship, and hundreds of stories. 

As a public school kid, I've always been fascinated by these tales of how they ran their classrooms like Patton ran the 3rd Army. How they ruled with an iron hand in a velvet glove. How they insisted you learn with the force of a thousand hurricanes and did not tolerate your monkeyshines. 

My interaction with nuns has always been fairly limited. For the few years I went to them for CCD (in most grades it's taught by parent volunteers) I learned quickly they were a much tougher crowd for my patented brand of Class Clownism than my teachers at Ralph Talbot Elementary. The Irish Rose went to St. Mary's in South Bend, and one of her roommates was studying to join a convent but ended up marrying a very successful gynecologist. Which sounds like a "Two and a Half Men" punchline, but I swear is 100% true. My No. 2 son goes to a Catholic university that has nuns all over campus and they seem really pleasant and kind. But I've been to so many of his mom's musical theater shows that any time I see someone in a habit, I'm conditioned to think they're about to burst into song. (Sound of Music three times, Nunsense twice and Sister Act once, for those of you keeping score. I told her once what an adjustment it is for a man to see his beloved wife dressed as a nun and she asked if I'm worried she's going to start hitting me with a ruler or something. "The last thing we need," I replied, "is a ruler in our bedroom." True story.) So yes, these women of God, for all the incredible, life-affirming work they do around the world every day, remain an almost unfathomable mystery to me. 

But I may have found one I can relate to. A fallen angel, if you will:

Source -  A now-retired nun accused of embezzling more than $835,000 from a southern California Catholic school to pay for “personal expenses,” including gambling, is pleading guilty to federal charges. 

Prosecutors filed federal wire fraud and money laundering charges against Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, for “stealing more than $835,000 in school funds to pay for personal expenses, including gambling trips,” the Justice Department said in a Tuesday statement.

Kreuper, who served as principal of St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., for nearly 30 years, has agreed to plead guilty. Prosecutors said that she embezzled the money over a 10-year period ending in 2018. 

Kreuper, who took a vow of poverty as a nun, was “responsible for the money the school received to pay for tuition and fees, as well as charitable donations,” according to the Tuesday statement. 

She admitted to diverting funds into several accounts for the school and using the money “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.”

First, a little piece of important business:

Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Second, all I can say, unironically, is holy cow. You can hate what she did, taking 800 grand from a nonprofit. Breaking both that vow of poverty and the "Thou shalt not steal" commandment at the same time. But damn, if you don't admire the brass balls it takes to pull this off for so long too. Embezzling school funds to go spend it at the casino tables is something straight out of a Scorcese film. The sort of thing you expect to be done by DeNiro and Pesci, not some old lady who looks like she should be making a fuss over the 20th baking soda volcano she's seen at the Science Fair. 

But she was a regular criminal mastermind. Someone who was clearly drawn to the games with the sorts of stakes she wasn't going to find at Bingo Night over at the Knights of Columbus hall. A woman who loved fat stacks she couldn't even see over and letting 'em ride. It's sad that she couldn't win enough to pay the school back and maybe keep a little sumpthin' sumpthin' for her efforts. Which I'm sure was the goal all along. So it's sad and troubling. And I hope she finds the forgiveness that will be hard to come by.

In the meantime, let's hope all over nun principals as schools across the country stick with making their money the old fashioned way: Bake sales, flea markets, raffle tickets and Christmas bazaars. They're not as glamorous as gambling excursions on the company's dime. But they've kept Catholic school administrators out of jail for generations now. Word to the wise.