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Rita Crundwell: How she did what she did

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Former Dixon, Illinois comptroller Rita Crundwell admitted to stealing $53 million from the city.

Crundwell pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in federal court Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, following the plea hearing, describes how the case unfolded:

Crundwell was the comptroller and handled all of the finances for the City of Dixon, Illinois from 1983 until she was arrested in April 2012. 

Crundwell admitted in her plea agreement that she opened a bank account in the name of the City of Dixon and RSCDA in December 1990.  She had sole control of that account.

Between December 1990 and April 2012, Crundwell transferred funds from the city’s money market account to various other city bank accounts, including the RSCDA account.  She created fictitious invoices from the State of Illinois to convince city auditors that the money put in the RSCDA account  was for legitimate city expenses.

She used the RSCDA account money to pay for her personal and private business expenses.

In one instance, Crundwell funneled $350,000 to the RSCDA account.  Crundwell created a bogus invoice showing the payment was made to the State of Illinois for a city sewer project the state had completed.  The same day the money was moved to the RSCDA account, Crundwell wrote a check on that account for $225,000 which she put into a personal account to cover a the purchase by her company of a quarter horse named Pizzazzy. 

When asked by city officials, Crundwell blamed budget shortfalls on late tax revenue payments from the State of Illinois.   She personally picked up the city’s mail, including bank statements, to help hide the scheme.  When she was away, she had a relative or other city employee pick up the mail and separate items addressed to her from the rest of the city’s mail.

A 12-week unpaid vacation in 2011 led to the city discovering Crundwell’s scheme. 

The person filling in for Crundwell during her absence requested all of the city’s bank statements.  That employee discovered the RSCDA account and told the mayor about the account.  The mayor was previously unaware the account existed.

By the time the account was discovered, Crundwell had accumulated a long list of assets.  In addition to horses and their equipment kept at two ranches and with various trainers, investigators said she had two homes and a horse farm in Dixon, a home in Florida, 80 acres of land in Lee County, a luxury motor home, more than a dozen farm vehicles, two cars, a pontoon boat, jewelry and two bank accounts containing a total of more than $220,000.

Read more from the U.S. Attorney at this link:  Details - How the Crundwell fraud case unfolded

Her full plea agreement is here:  Rita Crundwell Federal Plea Agreement

Click here for more photos and complete coverage of the Crundwell investigation.