Figuring it out
DIXON – For every day she worked at City Hall in 2010, ex-Comptroller Rita Crundwell stole an average of $37,478.52.
Further, of the more than $55 million in city funds she deposited into her secret bank account over two decades, only $1.338 million actually went back to the city for expenses.
She spent the rest – nearly $54 million – building up her world renowned horse breeding business, traveling around the country for horse shows, renovating several homes, and buying expensive jewelry.
She also “turned a blind eye” to the fact that the city faced severe financial hardship and was forced to reduce the services it provided to citizens, according to federal prosecutors.
Those details, along with an itemized list of what – and a timeline of how much – Crundwell stole between 1991 and 2012, were contained in court documents filed Thursday.
Prosecutors pointed to those numbers, and other factors, in asking a judge to consider a harsher sentence for Crundwell at her Feb. 14 sentencing hearing.
Crundwell pleaded guilty in November to a single count of federal wire fraud.
She faces a maximum 20-year sentence. She also will be ordered to pay full restitution to the city, which local and federal officials have acknowledged is unlikely.
The U.S. Marshals Service already has raised about $11 million from the sale of her properties, horses, and other items.
That money, minus costs, will be returned to the city once the case is resolved.
An ‘egregious’ act
Prosecutors say Crundwell faces 15 years and 8 months to 19 years and 7 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
The defense maintains Crundwell faces 12 years and 7 months to 15 years and 8 months under those same guidelines.
Prosecutors cannot ask for anything higher than 20 years, under federal guidelines. Crundwell must serve 85 percent of the sentence.
In federal court, sentences are determined using guidelines that consider the defendant’s criminal history and an offense level based on the nature of the crime.
The sentence also takes into account other factors, such as the seriousness of the offense or whether it will adequately deter future criminal acts.
The federal probation department, which completed a pre-sentence report on Crundwell, determined that she faces about 13 years to nearly 16 years.
In their 15-page motion filed Thursday, prosecutors said that Crundwell’s theft caused “non-monetary” harm, such as significant disruption of governmental functions and the loss of confidence in the city’s officials.
Prosecutors wrote that day after day for more than 20 years, Crundwell continued to work with city employees and interact with the public while she stole millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money.
“[Crundwell]’s conduct in continuing to take millions of dollars from the City of Dixon to support her living of this lavish lifestyle while she knew the City of Dixon was in dire financial straits was especially egregious,” prosecutors wrote.
While Crundwell did not have a criminal record, prosecutors say that she engaged in “an ongoing and continuous course of criminal conduct” for more than 20 years before her arrest on April 17 at City Hall.
Assistant United States Attorney Joe Pedersen declined Friday to say what sentence range he would ask for at the hearing.
As of Friday, the defense had not filed a response to the government’s motion.
By the numbers
According to the documents:
Crundwell, then in high school, started working in the finance department in 1970 and was appointed comptroller/treasurer in 1983.
On Dec. 18, 1990, she opened the RSCDA account (Reserve Capital Development Account) at First Bank South, now known as Fifth Third Bank.
Also that year, Crundwell started her horse-breeding business, RC Quarter Horses, LLC. At the time of her arrest, she owned more than 400 quarter horses.
In January 1991, she began transferring city money into the RSCDA account for her personal use.
She stole more than $181,000 that year. Meanwhile, the city had to cut $3,200 from the police department budget, $1,000 from the street light account, $3,000 from traffic lights, and $11,500 from the street department.
While the city cut, Crundwell bought herself diamond stud earrings and other jewelry for $3,000, and a 28-foot Suncruiser Pontoon boat for $18,728.
Year by year, Crundwell’s theft increased significantly.
On average, Crundwell stole $2.5 million a year over more than 20 years. More than $49 million of the money came from the city’s capital development fund, and the rest came from various other city funds.
Among higher amounts taken in any one year was more than $5.6 million in 2008.
That’s the year she spent $425,000 to pay off the balance of a motor home that she had bought the year before. She later traded that in to buy a $2.1 million luxury motor home, which she used to travel the country for various horse shows.
That same year, former Commissioner Roy Bridgeman reported that the budget had a $1.2 million deficit and that budgets or staff had to be cut.
The city also had to postpone an $80,000 maintenance project at the wastewater treatment facility, which included sandblasting and repainting of the screw pump to prevent rusting.
That project was completed in August, but the delay of the project made the price jump from $80,000 to more than $400,000.
In 2010, when Crundwell also stole more than $5.6 million, she paid nearly $455,000 to build a new home on Dutch Road and $271,750 to completely renovate her vacation home in Englewood, Fla.
The city’s deficit was at $3.74 million that year, working cash was down to almost zero, and there was “a lot of juggling” of funds to meet payrolls.
Crundwell took elaborate steps to hide the fraud by creating hundreds of phony invoices between 2001 and 2012, supposedly from the Illinois Department of Transportation, to justify the withdrawls from the capital development fund.
In September 2009, Crundwell transferred $350,000 in city funds to the RSCDA account to buy her horse, Pizzazzy Lady.
She submitted fake invoices for the same amount, purportedly to pay for a sewer project completed by the state, according to the documents.