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Dixon comptroller arrested

Posted on: 2:45 pm, April 17, 2012, by and , updated on: 01:18pm, April 18, 2012

The city comptroller for Dixon, Illinois was arrested by FBI agents for allegedly misappropriating more than $30 million in city money to fund her personal expenses.

Rita Crundwell, 58, handled all finances for the city since the early 1980s.

“We’re retired,” a Dixon family told News 8 while they drove up on the Crundwell farm. “We’d thought we’d take a ride.”

Crundwell is accused of defrauding more than $3.2 million in public funds from the city of Dixon since the fall of 2011. Crundwell is also accused of misappropriating more than $30 million in city funds since 2006.

“You can’t get rich overnight. I mean it’s terrible,” one of the residents said. “Officials are supposed to be trustworthy.”

The complaint against her says Crundwell used the money “to finance her own lavish lifestyle, including operating a horse farm.”

In addition to her arrest, federal agents seized evidence during searches of Crundwell’s home, office, and farms in Dixon, Illinois and Beloit, Wisconsin.  They seized seven trucks and trailers, three pickup trucks, a $2.1 million motor home and a Ford Thunderbird convertible.  Police said all of those items, plus about $339,000 in jewelry and millions in credit card payments and operating expenses for her horse farms, were paid for with money Crundwell allegedly took from Dixon’s city bank accounts.

“What little I know of her, she was a nice friendly person,” resident Mel Witmer said. “She was a very successful person from my perspective.”

Crundwell took an extended unpaid vacation from her $80,000-per-year job as the Dixon comptroller in 2011.   When another city employee filled in for her, that employee brought the city’s bank records to the attention of Mayor James Burke.

That’s when Burke reported Crundwell to law enforcement, since “none of the withdrawals appeared to be related to any legitimate business of the City of Dixon,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

An FBI review of Crundwell’s bank accounts and city finances showed a city bank account about which the mayor reportedly had no knowledge of.  The account was jointly held by Rita Crundwell.

A total of $785,000 was reportedly deposited into that account, and more than $620,000 was removed from that account in September 2011.

“It’s like there’s a fire going on, and we’re just out sight seeing,” residents outside the farm told News 8 Tuesday. “We’re just going to see the action because we’re bored.”

The review also showed more than $3.2 million was moved out of the city’s Capital Development fund and into the mystery account between September 2011 and March 2012.  That money was then allegedly spent by Crundwell for her personal and business expenses including the purchase of a $67,000 pickup truck, $450,000 in horse farming expenses and $600,000 in online credit card payments.

In all, Crundwell is accused of depositing more than $30 million into the mystery account between July 2006 and March 2012.

Crundwell was expected to appear in federal court Tuesday afternoon, and her bond was expected to be decided at that hearing.  The city council held an emergency meeting Tuesday evening and the first public statement about the case was made by Mayor Burke on Wednesday.

See what the mayor said in that news conference – click here.