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Crundwell free on $4,500 bond

Judge OKs bond, with restrictions

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 4:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 5:04 p.m. CDT
(Chris Johnson/Shaw News Service)
Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell (center) leaves the federal courthouse in Rockford on Wednesday afternoon after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mahoney released her on a $4,500 recognizance bond. Crundwell, charged with wire fraud, had been jailed in Ogle County since her arrest Tuesday morning at Dixon City Hall. Walking with Crundwell are her attorneys, Paul Gaziano (left) and Kristin Carpenter.

ROCKFORD – Dixon comptroller Rita A. Crundwell, accused of stealing more than $30 million from the city, walked out the front door of the federal courthouse Wednesday night.

She is charged with one count of wire fraud, although more charges may be pending against Crundwell, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pedersen said. He declined to say what charges may be filed or when, or if anyone else is under investigation.

The 59-year-old Dixon woman is free on a $4,500 recognizance bond, which means she put no money down, but will have to pay $4,500 if she violates the terms of her release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mahoney set the bond – and the conditions under which she will be allowed to remain free – after receiving a pretrial report that determined she is not a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Among the conditions: Crundwell cannot travel outside northern Illinois and western Wisconsin (where she owns horse farms) cannot obtain a passport, and must surrender her Firearm Owner’s Identification Card and two guns.

In addition, the nationally known quarter horse breeder may not sell any of her horses or other property, and she is banned from touching two bank accounts.

Crundwell, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, said little during the short hearing. She appeared Wednesday with federal public defender Kristin Carpenter and attorney Paul Graziano, both of whom declined to comment.

It was not clear whether Graziano was appointed by the court or hired by Crundwell. It also was not clear where she would be living as her case proceeds.

Crundwell waived her right to a preliminary hearing, at which the prosecution would have had to state its reasons for charging her. A status hearing was set for May 7.

Flanked on both sides by her attorneys, Crundwell declined to talk to reporters camped outside the courthouse. Several of her family members at the hearing also declined to comment.

Crundwell was arrested Tuesday morning at Dixon City Hall. She has handled the city’s finances since the early 1980s.

At a news conference Wednesday in Dixon, Mayor Jim Burke said Crundwell will be placed on administrative leave without pay, pending a vote by the council.

After the news conference, Burke said, “If they don’t put a huge bond on her and she’s back, people are going to be really angry.”

According to the criminal complaint, Crundwell wired $175,000 in city funds from a bank in St. Paul, Minn., to a bank in Cincinnati in November for her own personal use. The affidavit filed in support of the complaint said she stole $30 million since 2006 – $3.2 million of that just since the fall.

She did so, prosecutors say, to maintain her “lavish lifestyle,” which included buying big-ticket items such as jewelry, vehicles, a $2.1 million mobile home and farm equipment.

Agents raided Crundwell’s Dixon home, both horse properties and City Hall on Tuesday, presumably looking for evidence of misdeeds, and confiscated several vehicles, including the mobile home.

Dixon Mayor Jim Burke approached FBI agents in October, when Crundwell went on an extended vacation and City Clerk Kathe Swanson, who assumed some of her duties, noticed a discrepancy in the books.

Pedersen declined to say whether anyone else is being investigated in connection with the case.

Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon said Wednesday that he is considering filing charges against Crundwell, but wants to wait until all federal charges are filed and he has time to assess, to avoid any redundant charges.

The federal wire fraud charge carries up to 20 years in federal prison, where there is no parole. The highest state felony theft charge, including theft of government property, for example, carries up to 30 years. 

Online extras

Watch raw video from the press conference

Read Mayor Burke's address at Dixon City Hall press conference

Read the news release by the U.S. Department of Justice

Read the Federal Criminal Complaint

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