Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison

Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell arrives at the federal courthouse in Rockford, Illinois, Feb. 14, 2013.

February 14, 2013 4:18:08 PM PST
Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for embezzling more than $53 million in public funds.

Crundwell's sentencing took place Thursday morning at a federal courthouse in northern Illinois.

She pleaded guilty in November to wire fraud, admitting she stole the money from the city of Dixon while she was comptroller.

Crundwell used the public's money to live lavishly and build what became a nationally renowned horse-breeding operation, a $2 million luxury bus, homes and jewelery.

She is 60-years-old and she'll be in her late 70s the next time she walks free.

Dixon residents wonder if it's enough.

Crundwell listened to people testify about the damage she had done. The town's residents are largely lower-middle class, working at factories and grain farms.

"There's no real justice. It's just she's out of the way now and we still have to recover," Dixon resident Beverly Eyekamp said.

Crundwell stole a total of $53,740,394. That's a little more than $3500 from each of the small city's residents.

She tearfully apologized before U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard sentenced her to 235 months, or slightly more than 19 1/2 years.

"I'd just like to say I'm truly sorry to the City of Dixon and my family and my friends," she said.

She still faces 60 separate but related state felony charges for theft in Lee County. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Crundwell's public defender had asked for a lenient prison sentence, saying Crundwell had cooperated with investigators. Crundwell's plea agreement also required her to pay full restitution, with U.S. Marshals auctioning off her homes, horses and jewelry.

However, the court's decision places her near the maximum end of sentencing guidelines.

"It's hard to believe now she's really sorry. She might be sorry. I don't know that she has real remorse. Probably more sorry she got caught than anything," Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.