The Lookout

Feds: Illinois city official stole $53 million

The Lookout

Upon further review, the former comptroller of a small Illinois city stole a lot more than initially thought, say federal authorities.

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Rita Crundwell, of Dixon, Ill., faces charges that she stole more than $3.2 million in public funds from the city …

They now say that Rita Crundwell, 59, took more than $53 million over the past two decades from the city of Dixon, Ill., and deposited the money into secret accounts. She then used the money to finance her horse breeding business and a lavish lifestyle.

Federal officials initially accused Crundwell of misappropriating about $30 million. That estimate was greatly increased with her indictment on Tuesday. A federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Crundwell on a single count of wire fraud.

The indictment also seeks $53 million and numerous assets, many of which were seized from Crundwell when she was arrested by FBI agents on April 17. Here's a laundry list of what the government wants:

  • Two residences and the horse farm in Dixon
  • A home in Englewood, Fla.
  • A $2.1 million luxury motor home
  • More than a dozen trucks, trailers and other motorized farm vehicles
  • A 2005 Ford Thunderbird convertible
  • A 1967 Chevrolet Corvette roadster
  • A pontoon boat
  • Approximately $224,898 in cash from two bank accounts, and other assets allegedly purchased with fraud proceeds

The government requested a restraining order to protect the property.

The government also filed a civil lawsuit to seize 311 quarter horses owned by Crundwell, a champion horse breeder, because they were acquired with money she stole, according to authorities.

"The government is pursuing both criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings to ensure that every available tool is being used to recover proceeds of the alleged fraud in order to recoup as much money as possible for the city of Dixon, its residents and taxpayers," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The government will hire a contractor to feed and care for the horses, as well as the dozens of foals that are expected to be born.

Crundwell had served since 1983 as comptroller for Dixon, a town of fewer than 16,000 people and about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. Dixon is the boyhood home of former President Ronald Reagan.

Crundwell opened a joint bank account in the name of the city, and between December 1990 and April 2012 transferred funds into the account, according to the indictment. She then used the money to pay for her own personal and private business expenses, including horse farming operations, credit cards, real estate and vehicles.

To cover her tracks, she then created fake invoices from the state of Illinois to show city auditors that the money she was depositing in her account was being used for a legitimate purpose, authorities say. She also told the mayor of Dixon and other city officials that the state was late in its payments to the city, when she really had transferred the funds for her own use.

Crundwell was released on her own recognizance on April 18 and will be arraigned in federal court on May 7.

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