It sounds like a bad joke. Two nuns walk into a school and walk out with $500,000. However, it is not a joke. Two retired California nuns, who worked in a Catholic school in Torrance for almost 30 years, stole half a million dollars from the archdiocese and used it to gamble in Vegas. The nuns also took luxury trips on the school’s dollar. The craziest part? They will most likely never spend a day in jail.
The Parish School
St. James Catholic Church and School are located in Torrance, California along the California coast to the southwest of Los Angeles. The school is over 100 years old. At the beginning of the church school, there were 70 kids enrolled. Now the school serves over 300 students in grades K-8.
The school and the parish were operating under the assumption that they had hard times. Every time the parents wanted to fund a project, they were told the school did not have enough funds to undertake new projects. Many parents did not push it, because they thought the church and the school had suffered enough. There was a decline in school enrollment and in the church enrollment as well. In addition, the church was engulfed in tragedy four years ago. A woman who was drunk ran over a crowd of people who were leaving a Christmas concert at the church, killing four people. A six-year-boy was among the victims.
Both sisters, Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang had worked for the school for over two decades. Kreuper was the principal of the school for 28 years. The two sisters were close friends and often traveled together on trips. The sisters even made a joke about their rich uncle paying for their trips to Vegas and other casinos to gamble.
It was not until after the sisters retired that a parent asked for an old check for documentation purposes. When the staff of the school found the check, they realized that the check was not deposited into the school’s account. Instead, the check was deposited in a different church account. The account had been opened years ago, and was never used for anything, until the nuns began siphoning money from the school accounts into the checking account.
Accountants were called in, and it was apparent to church officials that the fraud had been going on for at least 10 years, and it may be as long as 20. The monsignor of the archdiocese stated that both nuns were remorseful, and had made a full confession, detailing spending sprees to Vegas for gambling. 433
The archdiocese has refused to press charges against the sisters. In a letter to parents, the Monsignor said that the sisters are asking for their prayers and forgiveness. They have also confessed to all of the missing funds, and have been cooperating with the investigation by the church. The nun’s order has agreed to repay the archdiocese, so the church does not want to press charges. However, the decision not to press charges has left many of the parents angry and frustrated. Parents feel that all of the good they have tried to do for the school was undone by the nuns’ theft.
The school has put procedures in place for reviews of accounting practices. Also, financial transactions have been changed to be checked and double-checked. More than one person has a review of the financial transactions and payments made to the school. The archdiocese has also put new procedures in place for the church as well. Old checking accounts have also been eliminated to prevent another massive fraud.
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