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Ex-comptroller pleads guilty to $53M theft

Nov. 14, 2012 at 4:23 PM

DIXON, Ill., Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The ex-comptroller of Dixon, Ill., pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud charges for stealing $53 million since 1990, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Rita A. Crundwell, 59, took the money to finance a quarterhorse farm and lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said. She faces 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to twice what she admitted stealing, $106 million. The former financial watchdog agreed to sign a promissory note for $53,740,394, the amount she admitted stealing during more than two decades in office.

Prosecutors said Crundwell regularly wrote checks to herself and deposited them in a secret checking account, then fabricated invoices from the state of Illinois to justify the spent money to auditors. She told local officials any shortages on the books were due to the state's delayed payment of local sales tax receipts.

To date, federal marshals have gotten back $7.4 million in the liquidation of the horse farm including some 400 horses, trailers, vehicles and a luxury motor home. More property and real estate in Illinois and Florida remains to be liquidated, the Justice Department said.

Dixon, population 15,733, is located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

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