Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Illinois Woman Charged With Embezzling More Than $30 Million From Municipality

Rita A. Crundwell, 59, of Dixon, Illinois, has been arrested and charged with embezzling more than $30 million from the small town of Dixon, where she had served as both municipal controller and treasurer for many years.  In what will surely be one of the largest embezzlement cases in modern US history, Crundwell is alleged to have siphoned funds from town coffers into a secret account she controlled for at least six years, totalling $30,236,503.51.  Crundwell reportedly began working for the town in the early 1980s when she was appointed controller and ultimately became one of the few full-time and highly trusted municipal employees, making just $80,000 per year.  She is the owner of Meri-J Ranch, a champion horse breeding farm in Dixon and another in Beloit, Wisconsin.  Federal authorities have charged Crundwell with a single count of wire fraud at this time.  Citizens believed she was simply a very wealthy woman because of her horse farms when in reality, it is believed that Crundwell spent town funds to support a lavish lifestyle, including the horse farms and a $2.1 million custom outfitted motor coach.  The misappropriation was apparently discovered last October while Crundwell was taking her annual four month vacation attending horse shows and running her ranch.  During that time, a fill-in employee came across a suspicious account showing multiple six-figure transactions which led to an FBI investigation.  The FBI has seized the contents of two bank accounts she controlled as well as seven trucks and trailers, three pickup trucks, the motor home and a Ford Thunderbird convertible.  Meanwhile, the financially strapped City of Dixon, with an annual budget of just $8-9 million, has had to close its pool and make other cutbacks in services.  Crundwell faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the single wire fraud charge.


Read the story herehere and here.

Listen to Chris Marquet who was interviewed on WGN Radio (Chicago) on 4/18/12 regarding this story here.

Update (5/1/12): Crundwell has been indicted on charges that she embezzled more than $53 million since December 1990 from the City of Dixon, Illinois.  This revision of loss magnituded easily places Crundwell's embezzlement in the top 10 in modern US history.  Read an update on the story here.

Update (2/14/13): Crundwell has been sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

local reports and the mayor's own statement yesterday indicate two cpa firms were contracted by the city - clifton larson allen, which assembled the city's accounts into financial statements, and andrew card cpa, a sterling illinois auditor. queries: why weren't the financials prepared by the city controller? why was an apparent sole proprietor cpa who also advertises personal tax preparation services appointed auditor for this multi-fund, mid-size city? where was the city's director of finance in all of this, and what was he doing to provide any oversight and internal control over the controller? how did the controller manage to take 4months of leave and vacation every year, and convince others at city hall that she was completing her work and handling the accounts aptly? anyone who knows anything at all about the 'showhorse business' that the controller operated would have observed that there is no profitability in the 'business'. it is an enormously expensive, costly and egotistical hobby. the only way one can hope to profit in the trade is to sell horses. breeding, studding and showing is nickel ante. shame on dixon's overseers - its elected officials and paid managers for trusting this (ok, yeah, this is america - 'alleged') nefarious thief!. and woe to the cpa's, director of finance and the poor bonding company (western casualty, i believe). this one was a whopper, and makes the townsfolk of the fabled burg of river city, iowa from meredith wilson's 'the music man' look like derivative traders on wall street or canary wharf! this is one for a 'new yorker' piece or a coen brothers production...