Sisters of St. Joseph will not defend embezzling LA sisters

credit: chodyra Mike 1/Shutterstock
credit: chodyra Mike 1/Shutterstock

.- The two religious sisters accused of embezzling from a California Catholic school face a criminal investigation, and will not be defended by their religious community.

“The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has filed a criminal complaint with the Torrance, California Police Department against Sisters Mary Margaret Kreuper and Lana Chang for misappropriation of funds,” the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet confirmed in a statement released Tuesday.

“As a religious community we will not defend the actions of our Sisters. What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law.”

Krueper and Chang stand accused of diverting funds from St. James School, where both worked until this year, into personal accounts. They reportedly took nearly $500,000 over more than a decade, and were caught during an audit begun earlier this year. Krueper had been principal at the school and Chang a teacher; both are recently retired.

The sisters are suspected of using the money for gambling, trips to Las Vegas, and other personal expenses. Krueper has a P.O. Box and a prior address in Las Vegas, according to The Beach Reporter.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles told CNA Monday that it intended to file a criminal complaint in the matter, reversing Nov. 28 announcement that the matter would be handled internally. The archdiocese has not indicated why they changed their position.

In their Dec. 11 statement, the Sisters of St. Joseph said they are unable to confirm the precise amount taken until an investigation is complete.

“We intend to make restitution to St. James School as soon as a total is known,” the Sisters of St. Joseph said. “Justice demands this of us.”

The order also said that “canonical restrictions” have been imposed on Kreuper and Chang.

“The two Sisters are removed from their residence and placed in a religious house under the supervision of community leadership. They are also removed from all public ministry.”

A spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet told CNA that the congregation's indication that it will not defend Krueper and Chang's action refers to “morally” defending the sisters. When asked, the spokesperson did not rule out the possibility that the congregation would assist in whatever legal expenses the sisters could incur.

The sisters have reportedly expressed remorse for their actions. Their religious congregation did the same.

“The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are concerned and saddened by this situation and regret any pain this has caused many in our Church, especially the families connected to St. James School. We hold the sorrow of our Sisters’ actions deep in our community hearts.”

Law enforcement officials have not yet indicated when charges could be filed against the sisters.

This story is developing and has been updated.

Tags: Catholic News, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Sisters of St. Joseph