Looking Back at the Rita Crundwell Scandal

DIXON (WIFR) -- It's been nearly a year since Dixon’s former comptroller was arrested for stealing more than $53 million dollars of taxpayer money. Tomorrow she'll finally be sentenced in federal court. 23 News Reporter Lauren Kravets took a look back at the last ten months to see how we got to this point.

It's a small town scandal now known worldwide and also the largest theft of public funds in Illinois history. The story broke with Rita Crundwell's arrest on April 17th, at Dixon City Hall.

Federal agents took Crundwell into custody after a five month investigation. Dixon mayor Jim Burke alerted the FBI in the fall of 2011, after the city clerk discovered a secret bank account. At the time, authorities said Crundwell used that account to steal more than $30 million dollars in city funds.

On April 23rd, Crundwell was fired as comptroller, after commissioners refused to accept her resignation letter

"I literally got sick to my stomach thinking about what was going on," said Dixon Mayor Jim Burke.

On May 1st, the FBI dropped another bombshell, announcing Crundwell actually stole more than $53 million dollars over two decades. Some Dixon residents were outraged that their money was taken and no one even noticed. Others supported the mayor for reporting Crundwell.

On May 7th, Crundwell plead not guilty in federal court. In the meantime, U.S. Marshals were busy confiscating and planning to sell Crundwell's entire life including a $2-million motorhome, more than a dozen vehicles and boats, and more than 400 horses. Her famous horse-breeding operation won her hundreds of trophies.

The first of her prize-winning possessions sold during an online auction in September. Later that month, Crundwell got slapped with state charges: a 60-count theft indictment for the same crime.

"She needs to be charged by everyone that can charge her,” said Dixon Resident Jimmie Austin.

While Crundwell's life was crumbling, her horses were selling. During a two-day auction, more than 300 horses sold.
On Halloween, Crundwell plead not guilty to state charges and two weeks later she changed her federal plea to guilty.

Over the last few months, the government has been selling Crundwell's homes. Her nephew just bought her ranch for more than a million dollars. Three other properties have sold or are under contract. Her Florida house is the only property left.

Many people have been shocked by this scandal, including Dixon-native and state representative Tom Demmer. That's why the lawmaker filed a package of anti-corruption legislation today. It makes governments more accountable and increases penalties for stealing public funds.
Crundwell’s sentencing is tomorrow and the most time she could get is 20 years. The public defender will argue for about a 13-year sentence. The judge will make his decision based on her criminal history, her cooperation in the entire case, and possibly, her age.

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