Rita A. Crundwell, 60, pleaded guilty in November to wire fraud and also admitted engaging in money laundering in a scheme stretching back to 1990. She used the proceeds to finance her quarter horse farming business and luxurious lifestyle.
Dixon showed "greater passion for the welfare of her horses than the people of Dixon," U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard said in pronouncing sentence in Rockford.
In addition to the monetary losses, Reinhard found Crundwell caused a significant loss of public confidence in local government. He ordered her to pay $53,740,394 in restitution.
The U.S. Marshals Service so far has recovered more than $12.38 million through online and live auctions of Crundwell's horses, vehicles, trailers, tack, a luxury motor home, jewelry and personal belongings. The net proceeds, $9.5 million so far, are being held in escrow, the U.S. attorney's office said.
At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors also presented evidence Crundwell stole $25,000 from a separate Dixon bank account set up for its Sister City program from 1988 to 1990, before the larger fraud scheme began.