The city of Dixon garnered the world’s attention this week with the arrest of the city’s comptroller. Rita Crundwell was charged in federal court with wire fraud, related to more than 3 million dollars missing from the city’s coffers since last Fall. Federal investigators also accuse her of embezzling more than 30-million dollars from the city over the past six years. WNIJ’s Susan Stephens has been following the story all week. She spoke with Jenna Dooley about the case and what she learned about the 58-year-old Dixon native while talking to people who know her.
Dixon City Council will decide Monday whether to dismiss Crundwell, who is on unpaid leave at this time. That’s one item in Mayor James Burke’s long list of ways the city is moving forward since Crundwell’s arrest. It also includes working with the FBI on recovering assets and turning them into cash for the city, hiring an independent investigator to see if any other employees were involved, and hiring a new accounting firm to oversee the city’s financial audits. Northern Illinois University professor and fraud examiner David Sinason says in a smaller city like Dixon, it’s common for people to trust people in city positions because they have known them all of their lives. Also, the fact that Crundwell was both comptroller and treasurer eliminated checks and balances that may have caught financial discrepancies earlier.
Crundwell leads what federal investigators called a “lavish lifestyle,” which Sinason says should have raised suspicions among her supervisors. But a number of people Susan Stephens spoke with in Dixon said they just assumed her wealth came from her work as a world-famous horse breeder. One writer for a horse industry magazine told Stephens Crundwell is “the Michael Jordan of the quarterhorse world,” and her arrest is devastating for many trainers who depend on her for their livelihood.