Gambling Recovery Ramblings. It Can Be Challenging In Early Recovery. Nun’s Accused of Embezzlement To Gamble?

I have been so busy of late trying to keep up with where “Big Jim” is and where he is biking to next, that it has been a long while since I shared myself and some interesting news I have found about or read about gambling recovery. A while I added back my recovery blog on two different new sites called Feedspot and Tumblr.

They share my posts on the sites automatic so I can help and reach more people, those struggling with or new to recovery. I blog as well so others know they are not alone recovering from this cunning addiction.

I find many times we all seem to face the same challenges in early recovery from this disease. Even though have been working my recovery for many years, doesn’t mean I don’t forget my own relapses and treatment program “Do Overs”…

I still remember the early days when triggers, urges, and cravings would win over my will and desire to stay in recovery and stop gambling. We never should forget where we were and where we came from in order to enjoy life and where we are today maintaining recovery. 

Here are some Anonymous comments from people who are trying to recover from addicted gambling. I am sharing so that others may know and be informed about how hard it is and the struggles and areas that are hard to come to grips with. It sure does feel like you are “Gripped By Gambling” in early recovery! Also an article about two Calif. Nun’s Steal Money to Gamble in Las Vegas! WOW!

That just shows that when you become a problem gambler, you then cross the line to a full-blown addiction, the disease will slowly progress to the point that when the money runs out? You then steal, lie, and cheat to get money to continue feeding the addiction …

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FEEDSPOT GAMBLING FORUM COMMENTS: How Challenging Staying Away From GAMBLING …
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“I feel the more we openly talk about the hatred for gambling the quicker we can retrain our brains fully into healing.  Gambling causes misery and darkness. There is nothing good that comes out of gambling. Gambling highjacks our brain.

When we win, we lose. We when lose, we lose. We hide, cry inside and kill our emotional feelings to the world. We can not be happy until we have lost it all.

We love the challenge of finding money to gamble with no matter how far behind in life that takes us.  We will not gamble today, we will not gamble anymore.”

ANOTHER:  “I just wanted to express myself that I’m happy you guys are here to give warming messages to make me understand what gambling can do to a person. It took so many years from me even though I’m only 26. I lost so many chances to take boy trips to other countries and build up my life. It feels kinda bad to be so low but at the same time awesome because it gave me life experience.

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ANOTHER:  
I relapsed!  Trigger Warning!

And got lucky. I won a fairly big amount of money for me, especially as a student. I started with a deposit of $100, lost that, then deposited more, and you get the picture. Then I finally won my deposits back and then some. Then lost it all!

I’ve been doing pretty good just staying away from gambling, but I’ve noticed I’ve definitely got an easily addicted mind, be it gambling, snus, alcohol, etc. If I stay away from gambling I’ll use a disk of snus a day, or go out to drink with friends.

Now I’ve once again locked out of online casinos but I always seem to come back somehow, by either circumventing the block or just finding a new casino.

I’ve edited my flair, I had a good run of 155 days clean but now I’m back at square ONE!  Here Is To new beginnings!
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ONE MORE: “I am sick, ashamed, and so disgusted in myself. I have no one to blame but myself. My boyfriend doesn’t gamble, but he does try to see make light of the issue (i.e I’m lucky that I don’t have to pay for rent, etc).

It all started a month ago as entertainment, but I’ve been going every weekend with my boyfriend ever since I had a big win in January. I promised that I wouldn’t become addicted, but that failed.

I got sucked way too into it and figured that I was in too deep anyway last night. To think I could have spent some of that money lost towards something more beneficial, like auto or student loans. I feel horrible.

I’m looking at my bank statement of all the withdrawals I made. I feel like shit. This is totally unacceptable!! I’m going try to put that addiction-feeling towards working on myself. SO wish me luck.

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Showgirls at the Welcome Sign - 8-15-07

Showgirls at the Welcome Sign

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((An internal investigation at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, Calif., found that two nuns who worked there misappropriated a substantial amount of money for personal use over a period of years.  ImageCredit Scott Varley/Digital First Media, via Torrance Daily Breeze, via Getty Images))

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Two longtime nuns at St. James Catholic School in Torrance allegedly embezzled as much as $500,000 in tuition, fees, and donations, perhaps spending some of the money on trips and gambling at casinos while telling parents the school was operating on a shoestring budget, officials and parents said.

The figure represents only what auditors have been able to trace in six years’ of bank records and might not include other cash transactions, officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents and alumni at a meeting Monday night at St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach. An audio recording of the two-hour meeting was obtained by the Southern California News Group.

The apparent scandal came to light last week when the church’s small, K-8 school announcedthat it had notified police that Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, and Sister Lana Chang, who both had retired earlier this year, were “involved in the personal use of a substantial amount of school funds.” But the nuns had expressed remorse, and the archdiocese and the church were not pursuing criminal charges.

Kreuper was the school’s principal, and Chang taught there.

The revelation comes four years after a car struck and killed four people as they left a Christmas concert at the church, including a 6-year-old boy.

Michael Meyers, the church’s monsignor, told the crowd of a few hundred people that the archdiocese launched an internal investigation six months ago after the organization performed a standard audit of procedures ahead of Kreuper’s retirement after 28 years at the school.

Around the same time, Meyers said, a family happened to request a copy of a check made out to the school, and the staff noticed it had been deposited in a bank account other than the schools.

That’s when Kreuper became “very nervous and very anxious” about the upcoming financial review and requested that the staff alter records, the monsignor said. Meyers said he alerted an archdiocese internal auditor performing the review that “something was off” and that the auditor confirmed his suspicions.

The archdiocese then hired an independent forensic auditor for a deeper review.

Without the red flags raised by the check, Kreuper’s “strange” behavior and a tip made to an archdiocese ethics hotline, officials said the school would never have known about the problem.

The improper use of the funds had been going on for at least 10 years, Meyers said. The parish and the school have always run in the black, so it appears no one had suspicions.

“The systems that were set up were dividing people, so nobody knew what was happening,” Meyers said.

A retired FBI agent hired by the archdiocese interviewed school staffers and the nuns.

“When he was talking to Sister Mary Margaret, she did acknowledge that she had been taking all the money, so that’s not a question,” Meyers said.

He said no other staff members are suspected of wrongdoing, but a bookkeeper who was unaware of the long-running scheme has voluntarily taken a leave of absence to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

Funds raised by the school’s nonprofit education foundation were not affected, officials said.

Auditors told parents the “long forgotten” church bank account was opened in 1997 and that bank records before 2012 no longer exist. Only Kreuper and Chang knew about the account, they said.

They described a system in which Kreuper handled all checks made out to the school for tuition and fees before handing them over to bookkeeping staff for processing. The principal allegedly withheld some of the checks and deposited them into the other account, endorsing the back with a stamp that read, “St. James Convent” instead of “St. James School.”

The sisters used a majority of the money for “personal gain,” officials said, though some of it was “recycled” back to the school.

Meyers said the money would have ended up in the school’s reserve funds.

The sisters expressed deep remorse, officials said.

The archdiocese is cooperating with Torrance police, but is unwilling to be a “complaining party,” archdiocese lawyer Marge Graf told parents. She said the decision was made because the nuns’ order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has agreed to pay the school full restitution and impose “severe sanctions” on Kreuper and Chang.

When a parent asked what the money was spent on, the attorney said: “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.”

The nuns, described by many as best friends, have been removed from ministry, according to a letter from the order read aloud during the meeting. Meyers said they have been moved to separate convents. Church officials did not say whether the order’s restitution agreement hinged on the archdiocese not pursuing criminal charges.

Meyers and other officials pledged to make changes to prevent abuse in the future, noting that new principal Noreen Maricich has implemented an online payment system for tuition that draws funds directly from parents’ bank accounts.

Reactions in the stunned crowd ranged from disappointment and anger to calls for forgiveness.

Many parents were outraged with the decision not to press charges, with some remarking that if the nuns were lay people, they would certainly be in jail. Others called for the restitution to be used to give teachers pay raises and for expenses they said Kreuper claimed the school could not afford, such as awnings for an outdoor eating area.

Jack Alexander of Redondo Beach said in an interview with the Southern California News Group that he and other parents are considering banding together to act as a complaining party to Torrance police themselves. But without cooperation from the archdiocese, he is doubtful the effort would lead to prosecution.

“We were an ATM, and people know it and they won’t ask for justice,” Alexander said.

The approach sends the wrong message to students, he said, that money is more important than morals.

“They are trying to recapture money, not get justice,” Alexander said.

Paul Eakins, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors have not been presented with a case yet from Torrance police. Sgt. Ronald Harris said police will confer at some point with the District Attorney’s Office.

“Our office doesn’t decline to charge simply because the victim’s future cooperation is problematical,” Eakins said. “However, if a victim is not presently cooperating, we may consider that as a factor in determining whether a case can be successfully prosecuted.”

Many in attendance questioned how the school could claim in a parent letter that the embezzlement did not affect the students’ education, and they criticized officials for hesitating at first to reveal the full, six-figure estimate. Some have called on Meyers to resign.

Denise Sur, a longtime St. James parishioner who put four children through the school and spoke at the meeting, said in an interview that she was disappointed that details were not provided immediately.

“The archdiocese and our parish leadership have to be held accountable for the poor process as well as what occurred,” she said.

Tony Liakos, a parent who also spoke at the meeting, said in an interview that the news is another blow to a church community still reeling from that tragic crash in December 2014. It’s a good school, he said, and he doesn’t want its attributes to be overshadowed by these two incidents.

“The biggest thing is I’d prefer to see this not hurt the school more than it already has,” he said in an interview.

Samantha Pierce, a Torrance resident who has attended St. James for more than 30 years and whose son graduated from the school, said the controversy underscores a failure of church leadership. Only a police investigation can be trusted, she said.

“They convicted the sisters before they actually have the facts on hand, that is the thing that disturbed me the most,” Pierce said.

She expressed skepticism that the nuns acted maliciously, even given their apparent admissions of guilt.

Kreuper was known to forgive tuition debt and offer assistance to families experiencing financial hardships, Pierce said, and she took trips to Las Vegas because she visited a friend from a Catholic school where she used to teach.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Las Vegas could not be reached on Wednesday. Kreuper has a past address and P.O. Box in Las Vegas, public records show.

If the nuns indeed misused funds wrongfully, Pierce said she would forgive them.

Other parents said it was well-known that Kreuper and Chang traveled often and went gambling, but that they claimed they have gifted the trips by a rich relative.

“These nuns took a vow of poverty and said, ‘Oh no, we’ve got a rich uncle,’ ” Alexander said. “The rich uncle was the parents of the St. James students. These 2 Nuns Suspected in $500,000 Theft From Catholic School Had a Taste for Gambling, Church Says.”

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