CHICAGO — An attorney for a former small-town Illinois bookkeeper who stole a staggering $53 million in public funds is arguing for a lenient prison sentence, saying the woman has cooperated with investigators since her arrest and must endure “disrepute and shame” for the rest of her life.

For more than two decades, Rita Crundwell, the former comptroller in the northern Illinois city of Dixon, which is best known as Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home, used the stolen money to fund her nationally renowned horse-breeding operation and luxurious tastes. She’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 14 for what federal prosecutors have called one of the most significant abuses of public trust ever in corruption-plagued Illinois. She faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in November to a felony count of wire fraud.

Crundwell, who had sole control of the city’s finances for years, siphoned funds into a secret bank account and hid the scheme by producing fictitious invoices for things like municipal sewer projects. All the while, the money was going toward prize-winning horses, expensive jewelry, luxury cars and even birthday bashes in Venice Beach, Fla.

Sentencing guidelines that take into account Crundwell’s acceptance of responsibility and lack of prior criminal history put the possible punishment at between 13 and 16 years in prison. Public defender Paul Gaziano is arguing for a sentence at the lower end of that range.

Prosecutors say it should be above the guidelines and have argued for closer to 20 years, though they haven’t specified exactly what sentence they would like. They cite the length of the scheme, the elaborate steps Crundwell took to hide her trail and the hardships her theft caused to the people of Dixon and the local government, which lost the public’s confidence and had to make sharp cutbacks because of budget shortfalls.

In a pre-sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday, Gaziano wrote, “Ms. Crundwell recognizes that the people of Dixon feel betrayed, bewildered and vengeful for her crime.”

Gaziano cited Crundwell’s age, saying a long sentence for the 60-year-old woman would amount to life in prison. He said the court should also take into consideration that Crundwell’s crime did not involve violence and that since her arrest in April 2012 she has cooperated with authorities in selling off assets to go toward restitution, including her more than 400 prized quarter horses.

“The cooperation of Ms. Crundwell has been extraordinary,” Gaziano wrote in the filing.

In their Jan. 31 court filing seeking a longer sentence, prosecutors noted that while Crundwell was stealing from the city, she repeatedly argued for painful spending cuts at budget meetings. She claimed the shortfalls were the result of an economic downturn and late payments from Illinois’ state government, according to prosecutors.

“Day after day, for more than 20 years, (the) defendant would work with employees of the city of Dixon and interact with citizens in her capacity as comptroller while lying about the reason the city of Dixon lacked funds,” U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro wrote.

The filing also laid out details about the impact of the theft: Police could not afford to upgrade squad car radios or make new hires, streets could not be resurfaced, a waste water treatment facility had to be delayed and the city had to issue $3 million in bonds to cover financial obligations.

In their filing, prosecutors included a news article about Crundwell’s 2010 birthday party in Venice Beach. Paid for with the help of stolen money, the party had live music, prime rib and jumbo shrimp cocktails.

“Rita was gorgeous as always in one of her trademark ‘must have’ coats,” said the article in

(14) comments

Terry W

You got that right HA HA!!


I think a more suitable sentence would be to forced her to work for FREE for the city of Dixon as a janitor, street repair, or some other manual labor job. If she needs to earn a living she will have to take a night job for that.


This just gets better and better every day!! Next we're going to find out that somehow Crundwell was connected to the 'Mafia' (who in all actuality has roots in Beloit, WI where she lived with her boyfriend after she got caught) and somehow Gaziano is now compromised. Crundwell lived a lavish lifestyle for the majority of her life. What is a 10 year sentence to her?... I mean 6 years with good behavior. Watch, she'll have her heals up back at her old ranch that her nephew purchased with her laundered money by 2020. Like I said in another post...What a Lifetime movie this is going to make.


You need to remember this little tidbit -

- This way she can have her cake and eat it too. Do you really think that she's not going to benefit from this?


I am not supporting what Rita has done, but keeping her in prison for 20 years is not going to recover any more of the money that she stole. It will cost much more money to house, feed and take care of her by the tax payers while she is in prison. Her life is going to be H... on the outside as she has nothing but shame and humiliation to live with. I think a shorter term would be better. Let her find a way to pay for her own living. It will be her own prison.


Her lawyer must do everything in his power to provide the best representation for his client, that's his job, that being said, she deserves NO leniency for her crimes

Yagotta B Kidding

"...lack of prior criminal history"????? SHE WAS DOING THIS FOR OVER 20 YEARS!!!!! She was doing this in 2011 PRIOR! She was doing this in 2010...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2009...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2008...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2007...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2006...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2005...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2004...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2003...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2002...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2001...PRIOR! She was doing this in 2000...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1999...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1998...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1997...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1996...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1995...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1994...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1993...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1992...PRIOR! She was doing this in 1991...PRIOR!


Okay, OCD!!! No convictions, means NO criminal history. It's the law everywhere in the good ol' US of A. Sad but true!!!


Really NO look at how long she pulled this off. Just because she got caught and admited to doing it she should not have to pay her time. Sorry see ya Rita. She knew what she was doing!!


What is being asked for is, JUST ANOTHER SLAP ON THE WRIST!!! Give this white collar criminal the time she deserves. Prison for her crime for a long time!!!

Terry W

Not feeling any sympathy for her......lock her up like the criminal she is!!


Not much chance of her paying her part of the restitution at her age either!


She betrayed her neighbors and friends. She stole a lot of money from them. She betrayed the public trust. She has to be punished to the full extent of the law. Nothing less will do. She deserves a maximum sentence.


"Gaziano also cites Crundwell’s cooperation with investigators and her age. He says a maximum sentence for the 60-year-old woman would amount to life in prison."

Life in prison for Rita...not a bad idea. Lets see, if she serves one year for every year she stole, she would do 22 years. So if she does the maximum of 20 years, she will be getting off light. Or, if she did one year for every million she stole she would be doing 53 20 years isn't so bad for Rita the meter maid....

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