Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell pleaded “not guilty” in federal court in Rockford Monday. She’s accused of stealing 53-million dollars from her hometown over the past 20 years.
Crundwell’s plea was entered by one of her two court-appointed public defenders. Federal Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney has asked for Crundwell’s financial records to determine if she qualifies for free representation because he has frozen most of her assets. Her attorneys have about five weeks to go over the 11-thousand pages of evidence federal prosecutors have submitted in the case.
Retired fraud investigator and author Thomas Golden lives just north of Dixon, in Oregon, Illinois. He attended Monday’s hearing and says the public needs to work harder to prevent fraud. He says fraud cases like this are happening in governments and not-for-profit agencies everywhere: "Trust, yes, but verify? That is what people do not do. They don't do the verification part. They simply trust. And if there's a con-artist that they trust, they're gonna end up a victim."
The federal government has also filed a civil lawsuit against Crundwell, to take possession of her 311 horses. Status hearings on both cases are scheduled for June 15. Crundwell, her attorneys, and prosecutors all declined to comment after Monday's hearing.