UPDATED: Rita Crundwell will spend next 2 decades in prison - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

UPDATED: Rita Crundwell will spend next 2 decades in prison

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(File photo) Crundwell leaving court in November 2012 after pleading guilty. (File photo) Crundwell leaving court in November 2012 after pleading guilty.
Auction of Rita Crundwell's horses in fall 2012. Auction of Rita Crundwell's horses in fall 2012.
(File photo) Crundwell leaving court in November 2012 after pleading guilty. (File photo) Crundwell leaving court in November 2012 after pleading guilty.
ROCKFORD (WREX) -

The woman who stole $53-million from the City of Dixon gets nearly 20 years in prison. That almost a year for every for every year of Rita Crundwell's fraud.

Crundwell's lawyer asked for leniency for her cooperation with the FBI and the fact she readily turned over her assets. But a judge said in the end she cared more about her horses than the people she stole from.

"I gotta tell you I felt very, very happy when the judge imposed almost the maximum sentence, it was just five months short of it. And to see her taken into immediate custody," says Mayor Jim Burke.

Dixon's mayor celebrated as Judge Philip Reinhard gave Crundwell 19 years and seven months. Her lawyer said she should get less time in part because she had no prior history. But the judge said she basically went on a 20 year crime spree.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pedersen said at the same time Crundwell would send out budget covers to city department heads with things like a cartoon drawing of a person drowning to show Dixon had no money.

"It's 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 the less money that would be available for her to take," says Pedersen.

Crundwell made a tearful apology in court saying only she was sorry to the City of Dixon, her family and her friends.

The U.S. Marshal Service have sold almost all her assets, but only expects to recover about 20-percent of the money she stole. After deducting expenses from taking care of her horses,  the Marshals say there is almost $10 million left from the auctions.

"We'll recover. We got the leaks in the dike are all plugged so we'll recover. We'll just have to watch what we are doing very, very carefully," says Burke.

The judge also started the process to get the money made from the auctions returned to the City of Dixon. It will be at least a few months before the city will see anything.

The sale of Crundwell's properties in Lee County are still pending. The Marshals will also hold an auction in Texas, February 23, to sell off her jewelry. You can see participate at www.txauction.com/.

A judge expects even if Crundwell gets time off for good behavior she will spend almost 17 years in prison so she won't get out until she is 77 years old.

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The former comptroller of Dixon has been sentenced to 235 months in prison for stealing over $53 million from the city since 1990.

Crundwell arrived for the 9:00 a.m. sentencing about two hours early. The judge had multiple letters of support and opposition for Crundwell, who could face between 12 and 20 years in jail. The defense is asking the judge to be lenient in sentencing due to Crundwell's cooperation.

Special Agent Patrick Garry testified on behalf of the FBI in regards to Crundwell creating approximately 159 fake invoices for the city. The FBI said although Crundwell admitted to stealing the money, she lied about how long she was doing it when she was first confronted.

The defense claimed Crundwell told the FBI the details of the scheme, even what computers she committed them from.

Dixon Mayor James Burke testified Crundwell drove on streets that were not being repaired and saw employees go without raises while she lived in luxury.

Crundwell herself also testified. She tearfully apologized, saying "I'm truly sorry to the City of Dixon, my family, and friends." The judge replied, "You have much better passion for your horses than the people of Dixon, who you were supposed to represent."

Crundwell's bond was revoked and she was taken into custody immediately after sentencing. The judge said she was a flight risk and could have hidden money to escape.

Rita Crundwell was arrested on April 17, 2012 and indicted a short time afterward. She was initially accused of stealing $30 million from Dixon between 2006 and 2012, but further investigation uncovered theft of over $53 million that began in 1990.

Crundwell carried out the theft by opening a bank account in the name of the City of Dixon and RSCDA in December 1990. She then used her position as comptroller to transfer funds from the city's Money Market account to its Capital Development Fund account and other accounts. City funds were then transferred into the RSCDA account and used for Crundwell's personal and private business expenses. Crundwell allegedly used the money to fund a nationally-known horse breeding operation and for her own lavish lifestyle.

She was charged with one count of wire fraud in federal court and pleaded guilty on November 14. At that time she agreed to owing full restitution of $53,740,394 to the City of Dixon, minus credit received for anything she paid prior to her sentencing. Crundwell has been free on bond until her sentencing date.

Possessions, including hundreds of horses, several homes, cars, and other assets were auctioned off by U.S. Marshals. As of December 10, 2012, the sale of Crundwell's assets garnered almost $8 million in total proceeds. Prosecutors expect to recover only about $10 million.

The wire fraud charge carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Crundwell also faces 60 separate but related counts of theft in Lee County.

13 News Reporter Rebecca Klopf was in the courtroom this morning and will have a full update on the sentencing on 13 News at 5 & 6.

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