Gambling Nun Stole Nearly $130k From Churches Over Five Years

Sister Mary Anne Rapp stole funds from two parishes to fund a gambling problem.

ByABC News
July 9, 2013, 11:27 AM

July 9, 2013— -- A Roman Catholic nun is behind bars for stealing $128,000 from two western New York churches to fuel a gambling addiction.

Sister Mary Anne Rapp, 68, of Lewiston, N.Y., was sentenced to 90 days in Orleans County Jail on Monday after she admitted to embezzling the cash from St. Mark's Parish of Holley, N.Y., and St. Mary's Parish in Kendall, N.Y., from 2006 to 2011, Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone told

Rapp was ordered to pay back the money she had stolen during her five-year probation as well as perform 100 hours of community service.

The parishes discovered Rapp's theft during an audit in the fall of 2010, according to the complaint.

"Not only was she taking from cash proceeds from the weekly passing of the plate, but also checks that were coming into the church and depositing them into her account," Cardone said.

Cardone said there was no fixed amount Rapp was siphoning from church donations. "It really varied on a weekly basis," he said. "It depended how much money came in and when."

Rapp was placed on administrative leave from the church in February 2011. She was fired from her position, which she had held for more than 20 years, two months later.

She pleaded guilty to grand larceny in Orleans County Court in April, Cardone said.

"She was well-liked by the parishioners," Cardone said. "At some point, unfortunately, she developed this gambling habit and she was siphoning off funds to support it."

Rapp's attorney, James Harrington, told Rapp would often gamble the money at Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

"She was a terrific nun, other than this problem she had," he said. "She was really well-loved by the parishioners."

Harrington said that it is unlikely Rapp will ever be able to pay back the sum she owes the parishes.

"She is 68 years old, she has no assets, she took a vow of poverty," he said. "She has no means."

However, Rapp's order, The Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, has offered by pay $10,000 each year of her probation to help return the money she owes to the two parishes, he said.

"There is no legal or moral obligation [for her order] to do that," Harrington said. "But they certainly feel bad for the parishioners and the two churches where Sister Mary Anne worked, and I guess they thought this would mediate the theft."

Sister Edith Wyss, provincial minister of The Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, issued a statement on Rapp's sentencing.

"We feel great empathy for the two church communities affected by her actions. Sister Mary Anne is a member of our community and we will continue to help and support her," the statement said.