Ex-Dixon Comptroller's 20-Year Sentence Upheld

Nov 15, 2013

Bad news for former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell today: a federal appeals court upheld her nearly 20-year prison sentence.

Rita Crundwell leaves the federal courthouse in Rockford with her attorneys after initially pleading "not guilty" in May 2012.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Crundwell was sentenced in February after pleading guilty to wire fraud in federal court. She stole more than $53-million from the city of Dixon over two decades while serving as the city's comptroller. During that time, Dixon was having trouble paying its bills, while Crundwell lived a "lavish lifestyle," which included becoming one of the world's top quarterhorse breeders. 

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously upheld Crundwell's 235-month sentence. Her court -appointed attorney argued on November 4th that her sentence should be reduced and that Judge Philip Reinhard had abused his power by giving her more time than recommended under federal guidelines. Today, the appeals court released its seven-page ruling, defending and justifying the judge's decision. The document ends with a surprising historical comparison:

Crundwell single-handedly stole from the citizens of a small community (Dixon's population is under 16,000) ten times as much as public officials in the Teapot Dome Affair, the national government's most notorious financial scandal misappropriated from the citizenry of the country as a whole. (Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall received about $400,000, worth $5.3-million in current dollars.) Crundwell maintains that the judge did not consider her arguments, but the judge addressed every one of them. That he thought less well of her cooperation than Crundwell herself did, and gave a lower weight to her age than she asked him to, does not undermine the sentence's validity. Judges must consider a defendant's principal arguments but need not agree with them.

The City of Dixon was able to recover about $40-million dollars through settlements with a bank and former auditors for not catching Crundwell's embezzlement.

Read the appeals court decision here: http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2013/D11-15/C:13-1407:J:Easterbrook:aut:T:fnOp:N:1241317:S:0