Small-Town Comptroller Rita Crundwell Gets Nearly 20 Years For $53 Million Fraud

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Rita Crundwell sentenced

ROCKFORD, Ill. -- A former city bookkeeper was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison Thursday for embezzling more than $53 million from her Illinois community, in what ranks as one of the worst abuses of public trust in the state's corruption-rich history.

Rita Crundwell, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling money from the city of Dixon from 1991 until her arrest last April, tearfully apologized in a Rockford federal courtroom before U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard sentenced her to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison -- just shy of the maximum 20 years. She was taken into custody at the end of the hearing.

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"I am truly sorry to the city of Dixon, to my family and my friends," Crundwell said in court, sobbing.

For more than two decades as comptroller for Dixon, a northern Illinois community best known for being the site of Ronald Reagan's boyhood home, Crundwell siphoned city funds to pay for properties, vacations, luxury cars and a horse-breeding operation that became nationally renown.

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Crundwell's apology marked the first time that she spoke publicly about her massive theft, and before she got her turn in court, she had to listen to people testify about the damage she had done. Before sentencing her, Reinhard told Crundwell that she had crippled the largely working-class city of roughly 16,000 residents.

"You showed a much greater passion for the welfare of your horses than you did for the people of Dixon who you represented," the judge said. He said his sentence means the 60-year-old Crundwell will likely remain locked up until she is 77. Crundwell still faces 60 separate but related state felony charges for theft in Lee County. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Crundwell got away with her scheme for so long because for years, she had sole control of the city's finances and would hide her theft behind fictitious invoices for things such as municipal sewer projects. All the while, she was spending the city's money on her prize-winning horses, expensive jewelry, luxury cars and birthday bashes in Florida.

More: Small Town Comptroller, Rita Crundwell, Pleads Guilty In $53 Million Theft

Prosecutors say Crundwell began depositing Dixon's money in a secret bank account in January 1991 and continued doing so until her arrest in April 2012, months after the FBI began monitoring her transactions. Her scheme began to unravel when she went on an extended vacation in 2011 and the person filling in for her stumbled upon her secret account, prompting the mayor's call to the FBI.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Pedersen said after the hearing that Crundwell would have continued stealing if she hadn't been caught. "There was no evidence she was going to stop," he said.

Crundwell's public defender had requested a sentence of about 13 years, which would have been on the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. But prosecutors sought closer to the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The judge also ordered Crundwell to pay full restitution -- $53.7 million -- as per the terms of her deal, but prosecutors said that they only expect to recover about $10 million of that. During the past several months, U.S. Marshals have been auctioning off Crundwell's assets, including houses, horses and jewelry.

Crundwell began working for the city about 100 miles west of Chicago when she was 17 and began overseeing its finances in the 1980s. Prosecutors say that residents, many of whom who work in factories and on grain farms, came to trust her. Besides the luxury homes and vehicles she bought over the years, Crundwell spent millions on her horse-breeding operation, RC Quarter Horses LLC, which produced 52 world champions in exhibitions run by the American Quarter Horse Association.



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53 Comments

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EddieL

Folks why you all getting excited about. It happened in Illinois for crying out loud. This is normal behavior. Leave the poor thing alone, she's only doing what most politicians from Illinois do, so not a big deal. hmm, I wonder what party she belongs to?

March 02 2013 at 8:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Burt

$53 million and she had a Public Defender!

February 20 2013 at 12:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
runswthscisors40

Crundwell's public defender

Unbelievable.............

February 18 2013 at 11:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dollibug

This is a prime reason of why our country SUFFERS*****and this is probably just the *TIP OF THE ICEBERG*****SOMETHING WAS REALLY WRONG THAT SHE WAS NOT CAUGHT BEFORE NOW****does this tell anyone ANYTHING????????????????????????

February 18 2013 at 9:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
harolddundee

She lived it up and now she will try to live it down.

February 18 2013 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
novastien

she should serve life!

February 18 2013 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
saturnhug

They should be embarrassed. Everyone needs to have some one to answer to.

February 18 2013 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
patsans4

only 20 years. she will be out in 7. she is already writing her book. people have been sentenced to a lot longer for havin one joint.

February 18 2013 at 6:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Cameron

Those who are saying she will get out on good behavior is wrong. This is federal not state meaning she will serve a MINIMUM of 85% of her sentence. There is also NO parole in the federal system.

February 18 2013 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CAROLINA

Anybody remember Paul Powell Secretary of State in Illinois? Google his name and shoebox

February 18 2013 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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