After allegedly siphoning off $53 Million from tax payers in the Illinois city of Dixon according to the U.S. attorney's office, former Municipal Comptroller Rita Crundwell, 59, pleaded guilty to charges Wednesday in federal court, the Chicago Tribune reported
Crundwell, who had previously pleaded not guilty to the wire fraud count, is believed to have allegedly used the money to maintain a lavish lifestyle, purchasing expensive jewelry and owning a horse breeding operation known for its champion horses.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Crundwell’s breeding facility, which consists of 400 quarter horses and a luxury motor home, brought in over $7 Million at a federal auction.
Other assets, including her Florida home and over $400,000 worth of diamond jewelry, will also be auctioned in time by the U.S. Marshal Service to compensate for the city’s loss of funds stemming from Crundwell’s alleged fraud.
After pleading guilty, Crundwell, who did not speak in court, left without speaking to reporters.
“Rita Crundwell today admitted her guilt, saving the government the burden and expense of a lengthy trial,” said Crundwell’s attorney Paul Gazianno to press following the hearing. “Rita, since the day of her arrest, has worked with the government to accomplish the sale of her assets, including her beloved horses, all with the goal of hoping to recoup the losses for the city of Dixon.”
Dixon, a mostly blue collar city located in northern Illinois, is the boyhood home of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
Crundwell’s decision to plead guilty didn’t surprise Dixon Mayor Jim Burke, who in an interview with the Chicago Tribune recalled a conversation with the FBI in April in which “(Agents) told me, 'This will either take a few minutes or a few hours,' . . . When it just went on for hours, I figured she was singing like a canary, and that's good."
According to ABC News, Crundwell faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and fine of $250,000 in addition to her asset’s being auctioned as a result of her Class C felony guilty plea.
Crundwell will be sentenced Feb. 14, 2013.
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