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Former Dixon comptroller pleads guilty to stealing $53 million


Rita Crundwell

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Updated: December 19, 2012 11:46AM

ROCKFORD — The longtime Dixon bookkeeper accused of embezzling more than $50 million from the city to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a nationally known horse-breeding operation has pleaded guilty.

Rita Crundwell, the former comptroller of Dixon, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of wire fraud in federal court in Rockford. She was accused of stealing public money while overseeing the town’s public finances and siphoning it into a secret bank account.

Residents in Dixon, the boyhood home of the late President Ronald Reagan, welcomed Crundwell’s plea. Its 16,000 residents are largely lower-middle class, working at factories and grain farms, and they had come to trust Crundwell to manage the town’s finances with little oversight.

“It is a pity and tragedy — for us and herself,” Mayor James Burke said. “But having said that, the people who care about the community are looking forward, not backward.”

Crundwell deserves a long prison sentence, Burke said.

“There is no indication that she has remorse over this whole thing,” he said.

He also hoped that the plea would help the town recoup more of its $53 million in losses. A guilty plea in the federal case enables the U.S. Marshals Service to start selling off millions of dollars of assets still in Crundwell’s name, including about $450,000 worth of diamonds and other jewels, ranch land and a house in Florida, he said. The marshals already have auctioned dozens of Crundwell’s horses.

Crundwell, 58, had previously pleaded not guilty to the wire fraud count, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.


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