The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is to file a criminal complaint against two nuns accused of embezzling $500,000 (£396,300) from the Catholic School at which they worked, allegedly to spend on gambling in Las Vegas.
Sisters Mary Kreuper and Lana Chang, who retired this year from St James’ Catholic school in California after teaching there for more than two decades, allegedly took money from an account holding donations and tuition fees, and spent it travelling to Vegas and gambling in casinos.
Sr Mary Kreuper was principal at the school for 29 years. Sr Lana Chang taught there for 20 years. The nuns are said to be best friends.
Having initially said it would not press charges, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angelese told Catholic News Service (CNA) on 10 December that the archdiocese will become a “complaining party” in the case.
A spokeswoman for the nuns’ order, The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, told CNA on 10 December that canonical restrictions have been imposed on the sisters, and a formal canonical process “will be determined when the criminal aspect of the case is completed.”
According to a local Los Angeles paper, Marge Graf, a lawyer for the archdiocese, told St James' School parents that the sisters “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”.
Parents were originally informed about the nuns' actions in a letter from the school's pastor, Monsignor Michael Meyers.
The letter, dated 28 November and seen by news agency AFP, states that Ms Kreuper and Ms Chang had taken a "substantial" amount of school funds for their personal use. The missing money was discovered during an audit conducted after Ms Kreuper's retirement.
"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," Msgr Meyers wrote.
In an earlier statement, dated 29 November, The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, said that they had notified by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles “regarding an investigation into the finances of St James School in Torrance, California”.
“It was brought to our attention that there has been a diversion of funds involving two of our Sisters. The Sisters have confirmed the misappropriation of funds and have cooperated in the investigation,” the statement, dated 29 November, continued.
The statement said that The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet have been serving the families of St. James School and Parish since 1918.
“Our community is concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any injury to our long relationship with the families of the school.”
The statement concluded: “The Sisters of St. Joseph both desire and intend to make complete restitution to St James School.”