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Rita Crundwell Pleads Not Guilty

Written by QHN Staff on .

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Rita Crundwell

According to wifr.com, leading Quarter Horse breeder and owner Rita Crundwell, the former Dixon, Ill., comptroller accused of stealing $53 million and stashing it in a secret bank account, pleaded not guilty to wire fraud on May 7. Prosecuters say they have more than 11,000 documents and photos that show how Crundwell pocketed her millions. U.S. Marshalls have taken control of nearly 300 of her horses. Crundwell is scheduled to be back in court at 11 a.m. on June 15 for a status hearing.

Read more at www.wifr.com.

Read more about Crundwell at the Chicago Tribune and view the seizure warrants by clicking here.

May 2 Update

According Yahoo! News, "Upon further review, the former comptroller of a small Illinois city stole a lot more than initially thought, say federal authorities. They now say that Rita Crundwell, 59, took more than $53 million over the past two decades from the city of Dixon, Ill., and deposited the money into secret accounts."

Read the latest update

April 25 Update

The Dixon City Council fired Rita A. Crundwell on April 23 from her longtime job as the Illinois city's comptroller, following allegations she may have stolen more than $30 million from the city over the past six years. Crundwell, one of the Quarter Horse industry’s leading breeders and owners, and a Western Pleasure and halter exhibitor, had been arrested on a wire fraud charge. She’s accused of defrauding the City of Dixon, Ill., out of millions of dollars.

Crundwell reportedly submitted a letter of resignation over the weekend, but by a 5-0 vote on April 24, four members of the Dixon City Council and the city's mayor opted to fire her instead. The council wanted to ensure she would not be eligible to receive pension benefits, the mayor said. Crundwell had handled the city's finances since the1980s. A Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that started in late fall led to her mid-April arrest. Read the criminal complaint

A federal Department of Justice press release issued at the time of her arrest stated the longtime comptroller for the city of about 16,000 is suspected of misdirecting more than $30 million from its funds since 2006 “to finance her own lavish lifestyle, including operating a horse farm.”

Crundwell, 58, was initially charged in mid-April with a single wire fraud charge involving one $175,000 transfer. She had served as the City of Dixon Comptroller since the early 1980s. She had also finished as the American Quarter Horse Association leading owner of annual World Show exhibitors each of the past eight years.

While Crundwell earned an annual city salary of $80,000, according to the Department of Justice press release, items seized from her property in April included a $2.1 million motor home, seven trucks and trailers, three pickup trucks, and a Ford Thunderbird convertible, all allegedly purchased with “illegal proceeds.”

Crundwell was entitled to four weeks of paid vacation per year, according to the complaint, but took an additional 12 weeks of unpaid vacation time in 2011. Another city employee reportedly filled in for Crundwell and it was during that time that records of an unknown city bank account were discovered. She pointed it out to the mayor. The mayor then contacted law enforcement officials.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, Crundwell, in her continuing capacity as city comptroller, allegedly wrote 19 checks totaling $3,558,000 to draw money out of one fund. She allegedly deposited in another that listed her as a joint account holder. She allegedly used $3.2 million from that fund on personal and business expenses. Those included approximately $450,000 for her horse farm, $600,000 to make personal credit card payments, and another $67,000 to purchase a new pickup truck.

Only $74,274 from the more that $3.5 million fund ended up going toward city business, the investigator’s report stated. The City of Dixon's entire annual budget this year is $7 million.

Between January 2007, and March 2012, Crundwell paid off personal credit card charges of more than $2.5 million, including $339,000 on jewelry, allegedly with City of Dixon funds. According to an FBI investigator, from July 2006 through March 2012, Crundwell placed more than $30 million of city money into unknown accounts, and paid out more than $30 million in checks, online payments and online withdrawals. The FBI investigator only identified $153,746 of that going toward city business.

Based on his review of bank records and other evidence, the investigator wrote, “I have concluded that Crundwell used the remainder of those funds to pay for her own personal and business expenses, including expenses relating to her horse farming operation and credit card payments.”

At the time of her April arrest, Crundwell had only been charged with the one original count of wire fraud, involving $175,000. She faced the possibility of more counts as the investigation continued. Wire fraud, according to the Department of Justice press release, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prisons, and a $250,000 fine, or an alternate fine totaling “twice the loss or twice the gain, whichever is greater.” The report reminded the public “a criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.”

According to station WIFR in Rockford, Ill., "The Comptroller for the City of Dixon was arrested by FBI agents on a federal charge for allegedly defrauding the City of Dixon of more than $3.2 million in public funds since just last fall. In addition, a federal criminal complaint alleges that the defendant, Rita A. Crundwell, 58, of Dixon, has misappropriated more than $30 million in city funds since 2006 to finance her own lavish lifestyle, including operating a horse farm."

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AQHA's response in an AP article