Feds: Ex-comptroller to plead guilty in $53M scam - FOX 32 News Chicago

Ex-Dixon comptroller pled guilty to $53M scam

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Rita Crundwell left court Wednesday without saying a word after pleading guilty to what the federal prosecutors said may be the biggest case of municipal fraud in Illinois history.

SEE: Auction of ex-Dixon comptroller's horses brings in $5M

"For over 20 years, Rita Crundwell was living the dream, unfortunately this dream was being funded by the taxpayers of Dixon. Today's change of plea agreement is putting an end to that dream," said Bill Monroe, the acting Director of FBI Chicago.

Crundwell admitted that as comptroller she set up a secret bank account and from 1990 to 2011 pilfered the coffers of Dixon of $53 million. She used the money to pay for a lavish lifestyle and become the most successful quarter horse breeder in the country.

Her 400 horses and related assets have been auctioned off, raising $7.4 million with her home, jewelry and other property still awaiting sale.

"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 losses for the city of Dixon," Crundwell's attorney, Paul Gaziano said.

People in Dixon know they will never see the $53 million back, but they will take as much as the feds can get them.

"It certainly gives some closure to the fact that she's admitted to what she's done," said Dixon resident, Kevin Considne.

Federal prosecutors say a lack of oversight by Dixon officials allowed Crundwell to get away with her scheme.

"21 years of this going and never being caught just defies the imagination we think it could have and should have been caught," said acting U.S. attorney Gary Shapiro.

One city official believes Crundwell owes Dixon an apology.

" Does she owe the city of Dixon and apology? I believe she does, and I would really, myself, like to see some sign of remorse," says Commissioner of the Streets in Public Improvement, Jeff Kuhn. "I haven't seen it at all."

Crundwell faces up to 20 years in prison on the federal charge, but then she still faces 60 felony counts in state court which could mean the 59-year-old Dixon native could spend the rest of her life in prison. She will find out her sentence on Valentines Day.

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