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Infamous Dixon embezzler seeks compassionate release from federal prison, cites COVID-19

Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell, who is serving more than 17 years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $54 million from the city,  is asking for compassionate release  – and to be returned to her family in Dixon – because COVID-19 has put her in fear for her life.
Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell, who is serving more than 17 years in federal prison for embezzling nearly $54 million from the city, is asking for compassionate release – and to be returned to her family in Dixon – because COVID-19 has put her in fear for her life.

DIXON – Former city comptroller Rita Crundwell is asking for compassionate release from Pekin federal prison – and to be returned to her family in Dixon – because of her fear of contracting COVID-19 given a wide range of health issues.

“I know at my sentencing you felt I was not given a death sentence with my projected age of release of 77, but now with my deteriorating health condition, and the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel I have been given a death sentence,” Crundwell wrote in a 7-and-a-half page handwritten request to Judge Philip Reinhard, filed April 27 in federal court in Rockford.

In his response, filed April 29, Reinhard notes that, per statute, Crundwell can file a motion seeking compassionate release after she "has fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons to bring a motion on the defendant's behalf or the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility."

Crundwell noted that she had filed such a request with the warden at Pekin on April 22 and was awaiting a response. She asked Reinhard for a reduction in her sentence so that she will have served half, or compassionate release if the warden denies her request.

A federal defender was appointed to represent her. That attorney has until May 15 to file documentation that Crundwell has exhausted all administrative avenues, along with her medical records and other pertinent information upon which Reinhard will base his decision, federal court records show.

The judge will file his ruling by June 5; the defense will have until June 26 to file its response.

Reinhard sentenced Crundwell on Feb. 14, 2013, to 17 years and 5 months for wire fraud. Crundwell stole close to $54 million over 20 years from the town she lived in her entire life – and under the noses of people she had worked with since high school, and who considered her a close friend.

It was the bigggest municipal theft in U.S. history.

In her letter, Crundwell cites several reason she believes she meets the criteria for compassionate release. They include her age, 67; health issues; her status as model, minimum-security prisoner – which already has shaved 5 months off her sentence – that she has learned new skills (she was a seamstress in Waseca, Minn., her first lockup, for 4 years, and worked in the kitchen in Pekin for 2) and can live with her brother in Dixon.

Those are among the considerations Attorney General William Barr has said must be met for a federal prisoner to be released to home confinement.

Should she be allowed to come home, she would pose no danger to the community, she wrote.

To be released because of the virus, the Bureau of Prisons has said in a memo that it is prioritizing prisoners who have served at least half of their sentences, or who have 18 months or less left and have served 25% of their sentences.

Crundwell is 2 years away from the 50% benchmark.

Originally set to be released March 5, 2030, her new release date is Oct. 29, 2029.

As for her health, in her letter Crundwell cites “several" issues, including "chronic hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic pain from severe scoliosis, and a pinched sciatic nerve in lower back causing constant pain and numbness to my toes.

"I had one hip replaced 8/17 in Carswell Medical Center and the doctor warned the other hip will need to be replaced due to deterioration caused by arthritis. I currently have only 56% of my kidney usage remaining due to the large amounts of ibuprofen I was prescribed for four years by the doctor in Waseca, MN, for the chronic pain. …

"I also just had a mass removed April 20, 2020, from under my right arm that they were afraid might be a malignant tumor due to my long family history of cancer.”

Crundwell was arrested April 17, 2012, at Dixon City Hall, and the story that unfolded detailed a lavish lifestyle with millions siphoned from city coffers and spent on building an international quarter horse empire, multiple homes, clothes and jewelry, all while her hometown struggled to repair roads and pay its bills.

According to the BOP Information, Policy and Public Affairs Division, Crundwell was at Waseca from June 3, 2013, to Jan. 25, 2017, when she was transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas.

She was transferred to the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 10, 2018, and to a minimum-security satellite camp at Pekin federal prison, about 2 hours away from Dixon, 6 days later.

Crundwell has two surviving brothers, Ray "Doc" Humphrey Jr. and Richard Humphrey, with whom she says she would live, and two sisters, Carol Beardin and Linda Burkitt, all of Dixon. Her brother Roger Humphrey died Dec. 11; he was 77.

If released, she said she will seek employment and help her brother out around his farm in rural Dixon.

“I will be very low-keyed," she wrote. "I am going to do everything possible to make up for my mistakes. I have taken responsibility for my actions since the first day.

"I will do anything in my power to repay the citizens of Dixon for my crime.”

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