Nun with gambling addiction stole more than $1m from Catholic school to spend on Atlantic City slot machines

Daily Mail, UK/November 14, 2011

A nun addicted to gambling has escaped being jailed after a court heard she stole more than $1million to spend on slot machines.

Sister Marie Thornton stole the cash from a Catholic college where she worked as a financial officer.

The 65-year-old would spend thousands on slot machines in casinos in Jersey's Atlantic City.

She often lost up to $5,000 during a single visit to casinos with money stolen from Iona College over a ten-year period.

Thornton, who was known as Sister Susie, was spared jail when she pleaded guilty to one charge of embezzlement.

A court heard that she submitted false invoices to cover her theft and also arranged for the college to pay her credit card bills racked up at the casinos.

At her sentencing in Manhattan federal court, Thornton said she was deeply sorry for her crime and for the embarrassment she caused her religious order, family and friends.

'Somehow the words 'I'm sorry' fall short,' she told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. 'They don't convey the gut-wrenching sorrow I feel all day, every day.'

She said she was particularly pained to have harmed 'the institution I loved ... and gave my all to.'

Thornton was fired as vice president of finance in 2009 when school officials learned of the embezzlement.

But they never contacted law enforcement.

The federal probe was launched after the school revealed the missing money — without naming Thornton — in its tax filings last year.

Thornton had faced up to three years in jail but the judge said it appeared she had been rehabilitated through extensive treatment for her addiction.

He also said she had been punished enough by the strict oversight she must endure from her religious order in Philadelphia.

Thornton was arrested a year ago and pleaded guilty in March.

Her sentencing was postponed several times at the defense's request, including twice for medical reasons as she had cataract surgery and a double-hip replacement over the summer.

Iona College in New Rochelle, New York has recovered $500,000 of the losses through its insurance.

Ms Wood ordered Thornton to repay the balance of what she took, but admitted there was little chance she could raise that much.

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