The Lookout

Small Illinois town’s comptroller accused of stealing millions

The Lookout

The chief financial officer of Dixon, Ill., has been put on unpaid leave after she was arrested by FBI agents and charged with defrauding the city of $3.2 million and misappropriating another $30 million in city funds.

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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 …

The arrest of Rita Crundwell, who was charged with a single count of wire fraud, has shaken the northwest Illinois town, which has a population of just under 16,000, according to the Chicago Tribune. Authorities say Crundwell stole the funds over six years to support her luxurious lifestyle.

Crundwell, an award-winning quarter horse breeder, spent the money on jewelry, a motor home, and her horse farms in Wisconsin, reports the Tribune.

Federal agents seized the contents of two bank accounts, seven trucks and trailers, three pickups, a $2.1 million motor home, and a Ford Thunderbird convertible -- all of which were purchased with illegal proceeds, according to federal authorities.

Dixon Mayor James Burke today told an audience of reporters and citizens that independent auditors had not noticed any issues of non-compliance and the city's bank had not noticed anything out of the ordinary, according to the Tribune.

The city will hire an investigator to determine how the alleged theft occurred.

The mayor initially reported Crundwell, 58, to federal authorities last fall, after another employee had assumed the comptroller's job while she was on an extended unpaid vacation, authorities said. After reviewing bank statements for September 2011 through March 2012, the FBI expanded the investigation and began reviewing the city's finances dating back to 2006.

Crundwell moved city funds into multiple city accounts, including a joint account for the city of Dixon and herself, according to federal authorities. She then withdrew $3.3 million from the account, using only $74,274 for city operations. The FBI expanded its investigation, and discovered from July 2006 to March 2012 she allegedly deposited more than $30 million into the joint account. She allegedly then paid out more than $30 million for her own personal and business expenses.

She had earned an annual salary of $80,000.