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Small-Town Comptroller Pleads Guilty To Stealing $53 Million

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Nov 14, 2012 11:20PM

Former Dixon, Ill., comptroller Rita Crundwell pleaded guilty today to charges she embezzled $53 million from the town over the course of 20 years. Crundwell, 59, put the funds into a secret bank account and used it to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Gary Shapiro, acting U.S. Attorney for northern Illinois, said the case is "one of the most significant abuses of public trust ever seen in Illinois." Crundwell pleaded guilty to 60 felony theft counts.

The AP writes:

"If nothing else, what we have in this case is an object lesson in how not to manage public funds," Shapiro said. "This is a crime that should never have been allowed to occur."

Dixon Mayor James Burke said independent auditors who reviewed the city's books over two decades failed to catch on to Crundwell's scheme. Lessons have been learned and changes have been made, he said.

As per the plea agreement, Crundwell is responsible for all restitution to the town of Dixon, the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. Authorities have recouped $7.4 million by auctioning off Crundwell's vehicles and dozens of horses. Federal marshalls will start auctioning off Crundwell's other belongings, which include ranch land, a vacation home and $450,000 in diamonds and jewels.