Torrance nun sentenced to year in federal prison for embezzling $835K from Catholic school

A Torrance nun will be spending the next 12 months behind bars.

In July 2021, Mary Margaret Kreuper, who took a vow of poverty, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Kreuper was accused of and later sentenced for embezzling money from St. James Catholic School for personal expenses, including gambling trips to Las Vegas. Kreuper worked as the school’s principal and committed the crimes over a ten-year period through September 2018, officials said. 

The 80-year-old worked at the school for 28 years and was responsible for the school’s charitable donations, tuition and fees, controlled accounts at a credit union, which included a savings account, as well as one created to pay the living expenses of the nuns who worked at the school. Court documents reveal Kreuper diverted the school funds into personal accounts.


"On an annualized basis (approximately $83,000 per year), [Kreuper] stole the equivalent of the tuition of 14 different students per year," prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. "These funds were intended to further the students’ education, not fund [Kreuper’s] lifestyle. In their letters [to the court], several students and parents commented on how the school was lacking in resources… Another parent discussed [in a letter to the court] how [Kreuper] said there was no money for an awning at school and no money for field trips."

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Defense attorneys said Kreuper became a nun when she was 18 years old, and for the next 59 years "dedicated her life to helping others and educating children in Archdiocesan schools. ... As soon as she was confronted, she accepted full responsibility for what she had done and she has cooperated fully with law enforcement and the Archdiocese."

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said at last year's plea hearing that he was raised as a Roman Catholic, "and was educated by nuns. And I don't look at nuns as ordinary people."

The judge advised Kreuper that he expected her to make a statement at sentencing, adding, "I don't have to worry about (lies) coming from you."

City News Service contributed to this report.

Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.