ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- One of the nation's worst cases of taxpayer abuse has come to an end. Former comptroller Rita Crundwell was sentenced today for stealing $53 million from the city of Dixon.
Rita Crundwell walked into Rockford’s Federal Court House as a free woman for the last time. Judge Phillip Reihnard sentenced her to 19 and a half years in prison, the maximum sentence was 20 years.
The judge made his decision after hearing testimony from four witnesses called by prosecutors.
City employees testified that Crundwell told them there was no money, therefore their departments and staff suffered. In fact, when the streets superintendent asked for a new work vehicle, Crundwell said, "If you know where a money tree is, I’d be willing to get you a dump truck."
Dozens of people packed into the courthouse to see Crundwell sentenced and to get some closure, and for the first time Rita spoke publically with tears in her eyes, saying “I'm truly sorry to the city of Dixon and my family and friends.”
Some Dixon residents don't buy it.
"Anytime you get caught you're sorry that you're caught,” said Dixon Mayor Jim Burke. “It's hard to believe now, that she's probably really sorry, she might be really sorry that she did this but I don't know that she has remorse for what she did."
Crundwell was immediately taken into custody. She must serve nearly 17 years of her sentence.
Crundwell's defense tried to get a lower sentence by saying she had been cooperative throughout the investigation, however prosecutors said she wasn't, because she lied. We told you earlier this week about another city account Crundwell stole about $25,000 from starting in 1988. However, Crundwell never mentioned the account during her confession.
In order to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again, the Mayor says seven people were just chosen to be part of their new governmental task force. They’ll be investigating different forms of municipal governments to see what works best. The Dixon Commissioner currently handles different departments, so they’re in charge, as opposed to having a city manager who makes recommendations and then brings them to council.
Also, they’ve had a new finance director in place and two other assistants. One handles bills and the other handles payouts and they cross-check with the finance director.
Prison time isn't all for Crundwell. The judge ordered her to pay double the amount she took. The ridiculous sum of $106 million. Once she's out, she'll have to put 10% of her monthly income towards that fee. The government can seek restitution for up to 20 years after her release. Until then, U.S. Marshals will continue to sell the rest of Crundwell’s property that includes her Florida house, two Dixon homes under contract and some vehicles. There will also be a jewelry auction next Saturday. Even once it’s all said and done, the total will still fall short.
"If you take the money we have in the bank, what we have under contract and the estimated value of the assets that are currently in our custody soon to be liquidated you're looking at about revenue in the area of 12.3 million dollars,” said Jason Wojdylo with the U.S. Marshals Service.
This story is far from over and there’s still quite a bit of litigation still up in the air. The City of Dixon is suing its longtime accounting firms for failing to realize anything was wrong with the City’s finances. They’re asking for compensation for the entire loss of $53 million and then there’s the State charges filed against Crundwell. She’s facing 60 additional counts of felony theft to which she’s pleaded not guilty. Crundwell’s public defender has said he might try to get those charges dropped, because they could be considered double jeopardy. He tells us he hopes to make a decision by the end of next week.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) -- A judge has sentenced a small Illinois city's former bookkeeper to nearly 20 years in prison for embezzling more than $53 million over more than two decades.
U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard in Rockford sentenced 60-year-old Rita Crundwell on Thursday after witnesses testified about the hardship her massive theft had caused the city of Dixon.
The former Dixon comptroller pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November and admitted to embezzling city funds from 1991 until her 2012 arrest.
She still faces 60 separate but related state felony theft charges to which she's pleaded not guilty.
Crundwell used the stolen money to establish a nationally renowned horse breeding operation and to live lavishly.
U.S. Marshals immediately took former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell into custody after she was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for stealing more than $53 million from the city.
The judge sentenced Crundwell on Thursday morning and wished her luck. Then a U.S. Marshal standing behind Crundwell in Rockford federal court handcuffed her. The marshal led Crundwell out a side door as she quietly sobbed.
The judge ordered her taken immediately because he said she could be a flight risk. The judge said it's possible that Crundwell could have hidden money to make an escape. The judge also noted that she received a longer prison sentence than she had hoped.
UPDATE: Rita Crundwell has been sentenced to 19.5 years in prison. She'll have to serve at least 17 years, but could get out early for good behavior.
She is being taken into custody immediately.
UPDATE: The judge is about to sentence Rita Crundwell. Crundwell gave a brief teary apology to city of Dixon.
UPDATE: The testimonies from the arresting officer, three city officials, and a statement from Mayor Burke have concluded. Closing statements beginning with government officials are underway.
Following her defense attorney, Rita Crundwell is expected to address the court.
We will update you as we learn more along the way.
UPDATE: The sentencing hearing of former Dixon comptroller, Rita Crundwell, is underway.
Currently, government witnesses are beginning their testimonies.
We will bring you the latest updates on this case as we receive them.
ROCKFORD -- Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell has arrived at a federal courthouse in northern Illinois where she will find out how many years she will spend in prison for embezzling more than $53 million in public funds.
Crundwell's sentencing is scheduled for Thursday. She pleaded guilty in November to wire fraud, admitting she stole the money from the city of Dixon while she was comptroller. She still faces 60 separate but related state felony charges for theft in Lee County. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Crundwell's public defender has asked for a lenient prison sentence, saying Crundwell has cooperated with investigators. That would be at the lower end of sentencing guidelines, between 13 and 16 years in prison. The most she could face is 20 years.