Former American Quarter Horse breeder and disgraced comptroller for the City of Dixon, Rita Crundwell, pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge. She admitted this morning that she stole more than $53 million from the city since 1990 and used the funds to finance her quarter horse operation and lavish lifestyle.
Crundwell pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and also agreed that she engaged in illegal money laundering, despite not being charged, as part of her plea.
One of the more staggering admissions in the plea agreement includes that the “defendant created a fictitious invoice to support the payment of $350,000 to the State of Illinois that falsely indicated that the payment was for a sewer project in the City of Dixon that the State of Illinois completed. Later on September 8, 2009, [the] defendant wrote a check drawn on the RSCDA account payable … in the amount of $225,000.” Those funds were used to purchase a quarter horse named Pizzazzy Lady. The check cleared on September 9 – but would not have without the deposit the day prior, according to court documents.
Crundwell agreed that she owes restitution to the city of Dixon more than $53 million minus the funds recouped from the auctions of her show horses, trailers, vehicles, and a luxury motor home that brought in about $7.4 million. Property auctions including real estate in Illinois and Florida and personal belongings are pending. The net proceeds from the forfeited property is being held in escrow and will be made available to her victims at the court’s discretion.
Under federal law, the government may continue to seek additional assets of a defendant and obtain restitution for up to 20 years after a defendant is released from prison.
“Since the outset of this case, we have used every available means, including both criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings, to ensure the recovery of as much money as possible for the City of Dixon, its residents and taxpayers,” said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Crundwell remains free on bond until her sentencing, which is scheduled for February 14, 2013.
She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or a fine totaling the greater of twice the gross gain or loss from her crime. The government anticipates that the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines range will be 15 years and 8 months to 19 years and 7 months, while the defense’s position is that the advisory range is 12 years and 7 months to 15 years and 8 months. The plea agreement allows the government and defense attorneys to recommend whatever sentence they deem appropriate.
Crundwell is also charged with 60 counts of theft in Lee County.