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New charges against ex-Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New charges have been filed against Rita Crundwell, a well-known horse breeder who was the former comptroller of Dixon, Illinois.

ABC 7 was there as dozens of state felony theft charges were announced against Rita Crundwell Thursday.

Crundwell also faces federal charges. She is accused of using the money to fund her own lavish lifestyle.

When Crundwell was arrested five months ago, she was charged federally with one count of wire fraud. In Dixon, the feeling among many was one count is not enough.

So, Thursday, a Lee County grand jury returned a 60 count indictment against the former city comptroller. In it, Crundwell is accused on state charges of embezzling nearly $11 million in city money between January 2010 to the date of her arrest last April.

The federal case encompasses 22 years, and the overall theft of $53 million, which investigators say Crundwell used to support her lavish lifestyle and world champion quarter-horse breeding farms.

But, in a community shell-shocked by a huge theft, having the accused free on bond does not sit well.

"She was released on a recognizance bond," said resident/reporter Mary Carlson. "there was no bond because of the large amount of money and they feel like she's gonna get a slap on the wrist from the feds."

Driven in part by community outrage, local law enforcement began building its own case, with the knowledge of the US attorney's office. The state's attorney Thursday even used the term "pound of flesh" when suggesting that each of the 60 counts calls for six years behind bars.

"You can multiply six times 60 pretty easily...and there's such a thing as a pound of flesh and there's such a thing as a ton of flesh," said Lee County State's Attorney Henry Dixon.

The more immediate concern is, How does Dixon recover at least some of its huge financial loss? A federal judge, using civil forfeiture laws, has already ordered that Crundwell's properties including her 300 quarter horses be auctioned off.

The auctions, one of which is this weekend, could fetch millions, but Dixon doesn't receive any restitution until the criminal case against Crundwell is concluded.

Crundwell is to be arraigned next month on the new state charges against her. But the federal case will move forward first.

And, because she remains free on bond under the federal charges, Crundwell will remain free on the state charges as well.

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