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Crundwell To Plead Guilty To Federal Charge In $53 Million Embezzlement

Updated 11/13/12 - 4:52 p.m.

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CBS) -- Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell will plead guilty on Wednesday to a federal charge tied to allegations she embezzled $53 million from the city over the last 22 years.

CBS 2's Marissa Bailey reports federal prosecutors announced Crundwell was scheduled to change her plea to guilty at a 9 a.m. hearing Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Rockford. Details of the plea agreement would be revealed at the hearing.

A source said Crundwell's defense attorneys have been working on a plea deal with the feds for months.

Dixon Mayor James Burke said he heard about the plea change last week.

"I think it's wonderful, because she could drag this out for probably two or three years if she wanted to stick to a not guilty plea. Probably would not avoid jail time, but she could drag it out for a long time," he told WBBM Newsradio's Steve Miller.

Crundwell is accused of stealing more than $53 million over two decades from the town to maintain a lavish lifestyle - including two homes and a ranch in Dixon, vacant land in Lee County, a vacation home in Florida, a luxury RV, fancy furniture, and hundreds of horses.

She's been charged with one count of wire fraud in federal court, but she also faces 60 separate counts on state charges in Lee County. She pleaded not guilty to the state charges late last month, and it was not immediately clear if she would also change her plea on those counts.

The federal wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, plus reimbursement of damages.

Authorities have been auctioning off Crundwell's horses, equipment, and other property to repay the money she allegedly stole.

So far, the U.S. Marshals Service has recouped about $7.4 million of the $53 million Crundwell allegedly embezzled, but not all the money from the auctions will go directly to Dixon. At least $1.5 million of that will go to cover the costs the U.S. Marshals Service has incurred while caring for her horses and maintaining the property they've seized.

Burke said he doesn't think Dixon will ever get back all of the $53 million Crundwell allegedly stole.

"We're hoping for a substantial amount, but it's pretty hard to put a number on it at this point, but it certainly will be in the millions, no question about that," he said.

Burke said people's attitudes toward Crundwell have calmed a bit since the news first broke of her alleged embezzlement, but he said the disgust remains.

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