By Jim Hagerty
DIXON, Ill. – Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell is seeking release from federal prison over fears of contracting COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The 67-year-old is serving a nearly 20-year sentence for stealing more than $53 million from the city.
“I know at my sentencing you felt I was not given a death sentence with my projected age of release of 77, but now with my deteriorating health condition, and the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel I have been given a death sentence,” Crundwell said in a handwritten letter to Judge Philip Reinhard.
Crundwell’s scam began in 1990, when she opened a secret bank and named it “Reserve Sewer Capital Development Account (RSCDA).” Meanwhile, she directed tax dollars to another account called the “Capital Development Fund.”
Creating phony invoices for capital improvements, many of which were never made, she directed money from the Capital Development Fund to the RSCDA. She used the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle that included vehicles, homes, RVs and one of the best quarter-horse breeding businesses in the United States. Her horses won more than 50 world championships.
The scheme went undetected for more than 20 years until the city clerk discovered the RSCDA account in 2012, when Crundwell was on vacation.
While it may be more, officials say Crundwell stole $53.7 million from Dixon’s motor fuel tax. She was sentenced in 2013 to 19 years, seven months behind bars. She is currently incarcerated in the minimum-security Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin and claims to be a model prisoner. But she says she suffers from hypertension and high cholesterol, her kidney function is only 56%, and that she’s undergone a hip replacement since entering prison.
If released, Crundwell plans to live on her brother’s farm, just outside of Dixon.
“My crime does not pose a danger to the community,” she said. “If I am granted home confinement, I will be very low-keyed. I am going to do everything possible to make up for my mistakes. I have taken responsibility for my actions since the first day. I spent several days and weeks working at the Rockford FBI office. I prepared the necessary files & information needed to accomplish the sale of 405 horses. Without my help, they would never have been able to locate, much less identify those horses.”
While Crundwell’s crimes were the subject of documentary, “All the Queen’s Horses,” she saw no proceeds from the film. But she says future productions are possible.
“I will do everything in my power to repay the citizens of Dixon of my crime,” she said. “I have several offers for books and movies. I have always said I would not speak to anyone until I was released, and any renumeration would go first to the City of Dixon.”
Dixon has been repaid about $10 million since the government liquidated Crundwell’s assets. She is currently making payments of $65 and $70 toward the balance.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Crundwell is eligible for release on Oct. 29, 2029.