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Nun pleads guilty to stealing $ 1 million to pay for gambling addiction

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Angels: A nun who ran a Catholic elementary school in Torrance, California, agreed to plead guilty to stealing more than $ 835,000 ($ 1 million) from school funds to pay for her personal expenses, including gambling addiction.

Mary Margaret Croiper, 79, was charged Tuesday (Wednesday, AEST) with one count of electronic fraud and one count of money laundering, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. A plea agreement was attached to the indictment.

Sister Mary Margrethe Croiper’s plea agreement states that she pleads guilty to embezzling $ 1 million from St. James’s School in Torrance, California.Credit:Screenshot / KTLA5

Cropper’s attorney Mark Byrne said in a statement that she was “very sorry for what happened,” and recounts how she became a nun at 18 and dedicated her life to helping others.

“Unfortunately, later in her life, she suffered from a mental illness that darkened her judgment and forced her to do what she otherwise would not have done,” the statement said.

The person who answered the call at St James’s Catholic School, where Croiper was headmaster for nearly three decades until she retired in 2018, said the school was silent. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it contacted authorities in 2018 when financial surveys showed that a significant amount of school funds had been misappropriated by Croiper for personal use.

“The community of believers in St. James was shocked and saddened by these actions, the parish, school and archdiocese reported this and fully cooperated with the authorities in the investigation of the criminal case,” the diocese said in a statement.

St. James's Catholic School in Torrance, California.  The two nuns allegedly embezzled thousands of dollars from the school to fund personal expenses, including travel to Las Vegas casinos.

St. James’s Catholic School in Torrance, California. The two nuns allegedly embezzled thousands of dollars from the school to fund personal expenses, including travel to Las Vegas casinos. Credit:Getty Images

In November 2018, the pastor of St. James’s Catholic Church in Redondo Beach warned parents in letters that Croiper, then recently retired, and sister Lana Chang, a former teacher, had allegedly misappropriated school funds for personal use. Chang, who retired at the same time as Croiper, has been an eighth grade teacher for about 20 years and has served as deputy principal for the past few years.

In the weeks that followed, the parents said Time that both nuns visiting the Volvo campus spoke openly about their trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Many parents expressed outrage that the details of the financial scheme were revealed during a two-hour meeting at the church, and asked if the nuns would apologize to the families.

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