Ex-Dixon comptroller gets 19 1/2 years for stealing $53M - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ex-Dixon comptroller gets 19 1/2 years for stealing $53M

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It was a day of reckoning for the former Dixon Comptroller who pleaded guilty to embezzling $53 million from the city.

On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced 60-year-old Rita Crundwell to nearly the maximum sentence possible--19 years and 7 months—and was immediately taken into custody.

"I'll bet there's a lot of cheering going on in Dixon right now, there absolutely is," Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said.

Mayor Burke said there was no culture of corruption in Dixon's city hall, but the once trusted comptroller fostered it on her own and is responsible for the name Crundwell and crime now being synonymous.

"It was really a relief to see the sentence that the judge imposed, and also the immediate custody," Mayor Burke says. "But, on the other hand, it was a very emotional thing to stand there looking at her and knowing her all these years and think what a tragedy this whole thing is not only for the city but for her also."

Other city officials testified how at budget meetings Crundwell told them there was no money to repair streets, buy a new radio system for police, or even mow the grass at the city cemetery. Prosecutors detailed how at those meetings Crundwell put cover sheets on packets for department heads with scared cats and drowning men.

"One was of a cat that was scared, another has big dollar signs being cut, and the last one just prior to the defendants arrest, showed an individual in the ocean with a life preserver," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pederson explains. "It was mocking on the one hand and it was also a psychological tool to discourage the individuals in the different departments from requesting money because the more money that was spent on legitimate city items for less money would be available for her to take."

In a confession signed the day of her arrest last April, Crundwell stated she first started taking money in 1999, and estimated she stole a total of $10 million. The evidence shows the embezzling actually began 11 year earlier and totaled $53 million.

In court Crundwell offered a tearful apology, saying: "I'm truly sorry to the city of Dixon and to my family and my friends."

Dixon resident Josie Whaley doesn't believe Crundwell is truly story.

"No. She had a wonderful life she had horses she had diamonds she had houses you know she enjoyed living," Whaley says.

"She didn't have a conscience all these 22 years," says former Dixon resident Mary Hahn. "For taking that money so I don't know if she has the capability of being repentant."

The judge told Crundwell she had more compassion for her horses than the people she was paid to serve.

With credit for good time served, Crundwell will still be in prison until she is 77 years old. She also still faces charges in state court, but the judge said he believes this sentence should be full punishment for what she is done.

The Marshals Office estimates the city of Dixon should get a little more than $10 million back from the sale of Crundwell's assets. The Bureau of Prisons will decide where Crundwell eventually serves her time.

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