As you might imagine, many parents are outraged, especially considering the school has reportedly struggled to fund a number projects in recent years.
The two women, both of whom recently retired from the school and are reportedly best friends, are thought to have been committing the fraud for at least a decade, according to the Press-Telegram. At a meeting with parents last week, school officials detailed just how the women may have pulled off the scheme by diverting checks made out to the school for tuition and fees into this secondary account.
St. James Catholic School in Torrance, California, announced last week that nuns Sister Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang ‘were involved in the personal use of a substantial amount of school funds’.
Kreuper and Chang were former employees of the school – Kreuper the principal, who had worked at the school for 28 years, and Chang a teacher.
Authorities had been tipped off about the sisters’ alleged thieving after the church performed a routine audit ahead of Kreuper’s retirement.
They’d both reportedly been telling parents the school was operating on a shoestring budget, but an attorney for the school claimed that instead the nuns has blown some of the money when they were living it up in Vegas on gambling trips, saying: “We do know that they had a pattern of going on trips, we do know they had a pattern of going to casinos, and the reality is, they used the account as their personal account.”
Kreuper retired in June after 28 years as principal. The monsignor, Michael Meyers (nope, not that one), said she had grown ‘very nervous and very anxious’ about the audit, and had asked staff to alter some of the records.
The audit raised ‘several red flags’ of ‘cheques being cashed into different accounts’, according to Adrian Alarcon, director of media relations for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, who said the amount is thought to be in the range of $500,000, but an investigation is underway to determine the full amount.
Meyers said the church and archdiocese have chosen not to press for criminal charges against the sisters, but instead plan to ‘address the situation internally through the investigation, restitution and sanctions on the sisters’.
In a letter to parishioners, Meyers explained: “Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana have expressed to me and asked that I convey to you, the deep remorse they each feel for their actions and ask for your forgiveness and prayers.
“They and their Order pray that you have not lost trust or faith in the educators and administrators of the school.”
The letter continued: “I want to assure you that the investigation has disclosed that, notwithstanding this misappropriation, no student or program at St. James has suffered any loss of educational resources, opportunities, or innovations. In sum, the education of your children has not and will not be affected by these events.
“At our school, we have initiated additional procedures and oversight policies for financial management and reporting responsibilities. I appreciate the efforts of the school staff to date and will continue to work with them directly on these issues.”