(CBS/AP) ROCKFORD, Ill. - Rita Crundwell, the former financial officer for the Illinois city of Dixon, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that she stole more than $53 million from the community whose finances she oversaw for decades.
Crundwell pleaded not guilty to wire fraud in a Rockford courtroom. She will be represented by public defenders.
Prosecutors contend that Crundwell had been transferring Dixon's money to a secret account since 1990 and using the money to create one of the nation's leading horse-breeding operations and buy luxury homes, cars and jewelry.
A criminal complaint says the siphoning of city funds went undetected for years until another staffer filling in as vacation relief became suspicious and discovered the secret bank account.
Dixon, a city of about 16,000 people west of Chicago where Ronald Reagan grew up, was especially vulnerable because Crundwell, who has been comptroller since the early 1980s, had control over all of the city's finances. This is a common arrangement in smaller cities and towns.
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