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Crundwell seeks less than 20 years

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

DIXON – Rita Crundwell, who faces up to 20 years in federal prison, is making her case for a lesser sentence.

While ultimately up to the judge, sentences are set in federal court based on guidelines that take a variety of factors into account, including the nature of the crime, how much the defendant cooperates, and his or her criminal history. The federal probation department conducts an investigation and compiles a presentence report, the recommendations of which both sides can argue.

Crundwell’s level of cooperation with federal officials since her April 17 arrest at City Hall has been “extraordinary,” her federal defender, Paul Gaziano, wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday.

In an effort to pay more restitution to the city, Crundwell shortly will turn over several assets not taken from the city. They include an account similar to a 401(k) and two notes for loans she made to two Dixon officials, Gaziano wrote.

Crundwell is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 14 on a single charge of wire fraud. In November, the 60-year-old admitted stealing nearly $54 million from the city since 1990.

As part of her plea, she agreed to pay full restitution, which officials say isn’t likely to happen.

The U.S. Marshals Service already has sold many of her assets, including her herd of more than 400 quarter horses, which has brought about $11 million. Her jewelry and a vacation home in Florida have yet to be sold.

In its presentence report, the federal probation department will advise the judge that Crundwell should face 13 to 16 years in prison. The department based its assessment on several factors, such as the type of offense, the amount of money taken, and the defendant’s willingness to take responsibility.

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion asking a federal judge to consider a harsher sentence, but one that would not exceed 20 years. To support their request, they filed numerous documents detailing how much Crundwell took each year for more than 20 years, how she covered up her scheme, and the financial toll it took on the city.

Crundwell is not disputing that, and she is not objecting to the probation department’s recommendation, but there are several factors that should be considered in sentencing her on the lower range, Gaziano wrote.

Crundwell’s scheme “was not extremely complicated,” it wasn’t a violent offense, and given her age, she likely will spend the rest of her life in prison if the judge gives her the maximum 20 years, he wrote.

The day she was arrested, Crundwell quickly admitted that she was the only person involved in the scheme, she continued to cooperate in the investigation – often at a moment’s notice – and helped marshals liquidate her assets, Gaziano wrote.

Although her cooperation does not diminish her wrongdoing, Crundwell helped the government “to a great extent in its efforts to conclude this investigation and to achieve a higher level of restitution to Dixon.”

She also has met with prosecutors to transfer her pension contributions to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, and will hand over money in an account similar to a 401(k) and a check made out to her in excess of $5,000.

She also will hand over notes for loans she made to Dixon Fire Chief Tim Shipman and his wife, Diane, and to Public Works Director and City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen and his wife, Angela. 

The balance of those loans and how they will be repaid were not included in the memorandum.

Calls to Gaziano and U.S. Assistant Attorney Joe Pedersen for more details were not returned Tuesday.

Loan documentation between Crundwell and the two city officials were seized from City Hall shortly after her arrest.

Ortgiesen told Sauk Valley Media in April that he was making regular payments at 4 percent interest on the 10-year note.

Shipman said in April that he approached Crundwell for a personal loan in 2008 and that is was a “fairly short-term” loan with a 1 percent interest rate.

Both officials said they had no clue the loans were made with stolen money.

Ortgiesen declined to comment Tuesday. Shipman said he had not heard about any agreement on the loans.

– Derek Barichello contributed to this report.

For more information

Go to www.saukvalley.com to read a copy of the defense's sentencing memorandum.

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