Rita Crundwell Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge

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DIXON (WIFR) -- Dixon's former comptroller Rita Crundwell is admitting that she's guilty of stealing more than $53 million from the city of Dixon. She officially entered the plea in federal court today.

Rita Crundwell can't go anywhere un-noticed, especially today as she left the federal courthouse in Rockford after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Ms. Crundwell now faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of twice the proceeds of her fraud and mandatory restitution of the $53 million plus million dollars which were the proceeds of her fraud.

Crundwell could end up owing more than $161 million. Gary Shapiro, acting U.S. Attorney for Illinois’ Northern District says he believes this is the largest theft of public funds in Illinois history. We're also learning a little more about how Crundwell stole so much money. Not only did she create a personal bank account under the city's name, she created fake invoices from the state to show auditors' the funds were being used for legitimate reasons. We now know the money was used to support her lavish lifestyle.

"If there had been maybe a little bit better oversight, some of this could've been brought to our attention a lot sooner,” said Special Agent William Monroe, with the Chicago FBI.

As part of her plea agreement, Crundwell forfeited all of her property, including several homes and vehicles.

"We believe we have located and seized and are liquidating virtually every asset owned by Ms. Crundwell so we can return the funds to the city of Dixon," Special Agent Monroe said.

There is no word yet on when Dixon will get that money back.

Crundwell's sentencing is set for February 14th. She'll remain on bond until then, even though prosecutors requested that she be imprisoned. Crundwell’s attorney Paul Goziano, argued she is not a flight risk. He said she has nowhere to go and no resources. Goziano said if she wanted to leave, she would've already done it.

Today Judge Reinhard explained a point system he'll use to determine Crundwell’s sentence. He says Crundwell does get "good" points for taking responsibility for the crime. He'll also look at her criminal history. We checked it out and couldn't find anything in Lee County prior to this incident. The defense will argue for a roughly 13-year sentence. Crundwell still faces state charges where she's plead not guilty. Her attorney tells us that’s still the case as of now.

The sale of Crundwell's remaining property is moving forward. Online auction dates for furniture and other items in her homes is tentatively scheduled for December sixth through the eighth. U.S. Marshals still have to sell five pieces of land. They've received unsolicited bids on three of them.

We're also told there will be an open house soon at her Dutch road home which has 40 acres of land.

Dixon residents also have mixed reactions to the news.

"I think she deserves everything she gets for using the people of this community.” As a taxpayer, Rob Loomis believes Rita Crundwell owes him big time. He says 20 years in jail is not enough. "No she should do life, she should be in there for the rest of her life,” Loomis added.

Although Larry Dunphy wants justice he's not confident Dixon will get every penny back. "Certainly not going to be $53 million but anything we get is more than we had," Dunphy said.

Renee Gilge says Crundwell's plea can help give the city some closure.

"The city can move on and get this out of the news and have everything go right, said Gilge.

Mayor Jim Burke says it will be a long time before the city sees a dime. "Once we see some money start to come back in, I think the citizens here will feel a lot better about the whole thing," said Dixon’s mayor.

DIXON (WIFR) -- Rita Crundwell, has plead guilty to the federal charges against her. Her sentencing date has been set for February 14th, 2013.

The plea agreement states that Crundwell could receive anywhere from 12 to 20 years for her federal crimes.

The plea agreement can be found above.

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