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Feds: Ex-Dixon comptroller will plead guilty

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 5:31 a.m. CDT

ROCKFORD – Ousted Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell will plead guilty today to federal wire fraud in connection with a case in which she is accused of defrauding the city of millions of dollars over two decades, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Crundwell, 59, will appear at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard. She faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

“It’s good news, because pleading guilty will allow the Marshal Service to liquidate all the sales and the city can start seeing restitution,” Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said Tuesday. “We can be happy it’s not dragging on and on.”

The question now, Burke said, is whether Crundwell will be taken into custody after the plea. She is free on a $4,500 recognizance bond.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment on the plea or whether she will remain free on bond before sentencing.

Crundwell’s attorney, Paul Gaziano, could not be reached for comment.

Crundwell’s change of plea comes nearly 7 months after federal agents led her out of City Hall in handcuffs April 17.

According to the federal indictment filed May 1, Crundwell deposited more than $53 million into a secret account, money that she skimmed primarily from the city’s money market and capital development accounts.

She wired $175,000 from a bank in St. Paul, Minn., to a bank in Cincinnati in November 2011 for her personal use, the indictment said. The interstate transfer qualified it as a federal offense.

She fooled auditors by showing them fictitious invoices, supposedly from the state of Illinois, while telling City Council members that the state was late in its payments, even though the money had arrived and was moved into the secret account, the indictment said.

She told investigators she used some of the money to pay for her world-renowned horse-breeding and showing operations, it said.

In the months since her arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service has auctioned many of her assets, including her herd of more than 400 quarter horses, for nearly $7.4 million.

On Sept. 20, Lee County prosecutors also stepped in, charging her with 60 counts of theft. She is accused of stealing more than $11 million from the city since January 2010, and faces 6 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

She will be back in court Dec. 19 for a pretrial conference in that case.

• Shaw Media reporter Derek Barichello contributed to this report.

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