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Prosecutor: Embezzlement plea a warning to others

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012
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The marshals already auctioned dozens of Crundwell's horses and other property, raising $7.4 million, but they say they doubt they'll recover the full amount Crundwell stole.

"We're very happy that she pleaded guilty," Dixon Mayor James Burke said. "There's no feeling sorry for her at all."

Burke said Crundwell deserves a long prison sentence, and he hopes her plea will help the town recoup more of its $53 million in losses. He said he would convene a public meeting to discuss how recovered money will be spent.

In response to Shapiro's comments, Burke told The Associated Press that independent auditors who reviewed the city's books over two decades failed to catch on to Crundwell's scheme. Lessons have been learned and changes have been made, he said.

"There are all kinds of things that I wish I would have done differently," Burke said.

The wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Crundwell's plea agreement also requires her to pay full restitution.

Crundwell had worked for the city about 100 miles west of Chicago since she was 17 and started to oversee public finances in the 1980s. The town's residents are largely lower-middle class, working at factories and grain farms. Prosecutors say that they came to trust her with the town's finances, but she began stealing money in 1990 to support her extravagant way of life.

Authorities say Crundwell bought luxury homes and vehicles and spent millions on her horse-breeding operation, RC Quarter Horses LLC, which produced 52 world champions in exhibitions run by the American Quarter Horse Association.

Her scheme unraveled when a co-worker filling in during Crundwell's vacation stumbled upon her secret bank account, prosecutors said.