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Ex-Dixon Comptroller Gets 19.5 Years

Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was sentenced today to serve 235 months -- 19 years and 7 months -- in prison on one federal count of wire fraud resulting from her embezzlement of more than $53 million in public funds from the City of Dixon.

Rita Crundwell

She also was ordered to pay $53.7 million in restitution from her assets and any future inheritance. Sale of her assets by federal marshals has netted about $10 million to date, including homes, horses, a luxury motor home, jewelry and other personal property.

Her bond was revoked and she was led away in handcuffs at the end of the hearing before Judge Philip Reinhard in the federal courthouse in Rockford.

She will serve her time in the federal prison nearest Beloit, Wisconsin, where she ran part of her nationally known horse-breeding operation.

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke told the court that his city was not looking for revenge; they wanted justice. He also testified that Crundwell did not learn to cheat the taxpayers from anyone at city hall because "Dixon is not a corrupt city."

Judge Reinhard says he doesn't understand how no one discoveredCrundwell's embezzlement earlier, and that it is up to the city to figure out. He told Crundwell her lifestyle was extravagant, and she harmed the city of Dixon and its citizens.

In a short statement to the court, Crundwell sobbed that she is sorry to the city of Dixon, and to her family and friends. But for some in the audience, it was too late for tears. Josie Whaley is a Dixon resident who made the trip to Rockford so she could see the sentencing firsthand. She said she didn't get the sense that Crundwell showed any regret or remorse for her actions -- even though she cried. Whaley said, however, it was satisfying to see the former comptroller taken into immediate custody. Judge Reinhard agreed with prosecutors who saw Crundwell as a flight risk, now that she had nothing to gain by cooperating with investigators. He also said it was for her own protection, having received a number of threatening letters from unhappy Dixon residents. 

Now 60, Crundwell will be nearly 80 if she serves the full sentence. Judge Reinhard said she could be out by age 77 with credit for good behavior. He also tried to assure her that he had checked the life expectancy of American women before sentencing and this was by no means a "death sentence."

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
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