Six months after the people of Dixon learned a trusted leader was accused of stealing their money the woman charged admits to it. Rita Crundwell was in federal court Wednesday morning and changed her plea to guilty.
The 59-year-old stood quietly, looking only at the judge as he asked her a series of questions. Finally asking how she pleads to wire fraud and she replied, "guilty."
Rita Crundwell today admitted her guilt saving the government the burden and the expense of a lengthy trial. Rita since the day of her arrest has worked with the government to accomplish the sale of her assets including her beloved horses. All with the goal of hoping to recoup the loses for the City of Dixon," says Paul Gaziano, Crundwell's attorney.
She agreed to give up all her property to repay the more than $53-million she took from the city. Crundwell also admitted to laundering money, a charge she never faced.
"From our point of view there was no point in stacking up more counts because at the end of the day it probably would have made no difference that was our judgment. If the case had gone to trial you would have seen us super ceding this indictment and adding counts that we could more fully tell the story," says Gary Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney.
Shapiro says since Crundwell was first charged in April his office thought a plea agreement seemed likely because Crundwell cooperated immediately. But law enforcement says it does not negate decades of theft.
"Her actions were sophisticated, it was a good scheme. But at the same time and this is my opinion, if there had been a little bit more oversight some of this could have been brought to our attention sooner," says Bill Monroe, FBI Chicago Unit, Special Agent in Charge.
"There was as far as we can tell no verification here. These thefts, these incredible thefts over a period of 21 years should have never happened," says Shapiro.
The U.S. Marshals still need to sell five pieces of property in Dixon and Florida owned by Crundwell. Plus her personal property like her jewelry. The judge will sentence her for her crime February 14, 2013.
Crundwell is also still facing theft charges in Lee County. She's pleaded not guilty there.
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