Small city comptroller accused of big theft

Rita Crundwell at the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov. 2011. (Credit: AP Photo/American Quarter Horse Journal)
This Nov. 2011 photo provided on April 18, 2012, by The American Quarter Horse Journal, shows Rita Crundwell, of Dixon, Ill., posing with Pizzazzy Lady at the 2011 American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City. On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, FBI agents arrested Crundwell, the Dixon comptroller, on charges that she stole more than $3.2 million in public funds from the city of Dixon in just a matter of months. She also was accused of misappropriating more than $30 million since 2006 to finance a lavish lifestyle, including operating a horse farm.

(CBS News) A official accused of stealing $30 million from the city of Dixon, Ill. Is free on bond after paying $4,500.

The amount of money comptroller Rita Crundwell is accused of siphoning from city accounts since 2006 is one and a half times more than the city's $20 million budget.

Comptroller stole $30M from city authorities say

So far, Crundwell has been charged with one count of wire fraud. A judge has limited her travel and has prohibited her from selling any horses or personal property. Her next court appearance is on May 7th. Crundwell is currently suspended without pay.

The 58-year-old Crundwell is a nationally renowned horse breeder, city employee since the 1980s and a world-class thief, according to the FBI.

Prosecutors say much of that money went to fuel a lavish lifestyle - including half a million dollars to run the two farms where she raised champion quarter horses.

A federal complaint also says that Crundwell racked up more than $2.5 million on her personal credit card, spending $339,000 on jewelry. In 2009 she bought a $2.1 million motor home allegedly paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Mayor Jim Burke said he feels betrayed, "Everybody in the city does." Burke in office since 1999, and has known Crundwell since the 1960s.

While her salary was just $80,000 annually, the apparently successful breeding business, which boasts of producing 52 world champion show horses, was enough to keep the curious at bay.

Burke "absolutely" accepts blame. "I can look back, probably every member of this council will look back and think, 'I should have done this and I should have done that,' but that is all hindsight."

The six-year-long scam was finally uncovered in October by the city clerk filling in for Crundwell while she was on vacation. She was preparing a monthly report when she noticed city money was going to a private account. She told the mayor, and he called the FBI and said nothing to anyone for six months. while the investigation played out.

Burke said thinking about the investigation kept him up at night. "You could not just get this out of my mind, because I knew what was going to happen to her."

The allegations have rocked the northern Illinois town where Ronald Reagan grew up. Lisa Framke, who opened up a restaurant in Dixon a week ago, said, "First reaction - shock. Absolute shock. And I didn't realize Dixon has $30 million anywhere."