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What awaits Crundwell behind bars

Former Dixon comptroller will go from luxury to a metal bunk-bed, a 12-cents-an-hour job

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The good ride is over for Rita Crundwell.

Last week, the disgraced city comptroller became known as federal inmate 44540-424 after she was ordered to serve a prison sentence in a case that officials have called the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history.

She will soon rest her head on a metal bunk-bed in a small cell or dormitory, as opposed to the ornate, king-sized wooden bed with a carved steer head that federal marshals sold from her home along U.S. Route 52.

Instead of wearing expensive fur coats and jewelry, she will put on a khaki or green button-up shirt and pants each day.

Crundwell, who earned an annual salary of $80,000 as the city's top financial officer, could earn as much as 40 cents an hour working in the kitchen or other area of the prison.

Crundwell was sentenced Feb. 14 to 19 years, 7 months in prison on a single federal charge of wire fraud.

Crundwell must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence – about 16 1/2 years. Once released, she will serve 3 years of federal supervision.

She also was ordered to pay back an astounding $53,740,394 that she had admitted to stealing from the city over two decades.

After sentencing, she was immediately handcuffed and whisked away to the Boone County Jail, where she will stay until the Federal Bureau of Prisons makes a final determination of where she will serve her sentence.

Chris Burke, a spokesman for BoP, said it could take a month or more for the agency to make that decision.

Burke said BoP considers several factors when placing an inmate. They include the findings of the pre-sentence investigation, which contains information about the inmate's background, education, and medical history; the length of sentence; prior criminal history; escape history if applicable; terms of the supervised release; and program and medical needs.

Those factors help to determine whether the inmate has a security level that is minimum, low, medium, high, or administrative.

A low-security prison, for example, features double-fenced perimeters, dormitory or cubicle housing, and a job component.

Burke would not speculate on what security level Crundwell might be assigned or where she could be placed.

BoP tries to place an inmate at a facility within 500 miles of where the inmate will be released once the sentence has been served.

However, an inmate may be placed at a facility farther away because of security, programming, and population concerns.

As Crundwell requested, U.S District Judge Philip Reinhard will recommend a federal prison close to Beloit, Wis., where her longtime boyfriend, Jim McKillips, lives.

The closest facility to Beloit is the low-security Waseca Federal Correctional Institute in Waseca, Minn.

That prison is currently the home of Catherine Greig, who is serving 8 years for helping infamous Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger evade capture for 16 years.

According to the prison handbook, inmates are allowed to wear a plain wedding band and a pair of earrings, which cannot have stones or engravings. They also can have a watch and a "walkman-type radio" with headphones.

Inmate counts are made at least six times a day. 

Wherever she is sent, Crundwell will be wake up at 6 a.m. each day for breakfast. She then will work a job – which could range from a cook to a plumber to a groundsman – between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

"[Federal] prisons are kind of like little cities," Burke said. "They have their own food service, education opportunities, sanitation – all the things that need to be handled."

The starting salary of a kitchen worker, for example, is 12 cents an hour.

Some of Crundwell's earnings could be used toward restitution in her case, Burke said. That won't be decided until Crundwell is placed at a facility, he said.

When she is not working, Crundwell can wear a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants and a T-shirt that can be bought at the prison's commissary, Burke said.

She can send and receive mail and will be allowed 300 minutes of phone time each month.

Many have wondered whether Crundwell can profit from a book or movie deal or get paid for interviews.

Burke said Crundwell cannot be paid for interviews while she is behind bars. Federal prosecutors also have said they can move to seize and liquidate any assets they can identify to help bring in restitution to the city.

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