DIXON, Ill. (WTVO) — Rita Crundwell, the former Dixon comptroller who embezzled more than $50 million from the city, has been freed from prison after serving only 8 years of a 19 year sentence.
“I think that’s the way a lot of people in the community are taking it, as a slap in the face,” said Mayor Li Arellano. “If I can steal over $50 million and all I do is a little over half a dozen years in jail, why is that a bad trade?”
Crundwell was convicted in 2013 in the largest case of municipal fraud in U.S. history, and was reportedly released from the Federal Corrections Institution in Pekin, Illinois Wednesday.
No reason has been given for her early release. She is now in her late 60’s.
In April 2020, Crundwell petitioned a federal judge for early release. She made the request based on her “deteriorating health condition” and the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of Dixon issued a letter opposing the motion and Crundwell eventually withdrew her request.
Arellano says Crudwell’s release sets a bad example.
“There are concerns from people in the public: ‘Is she going to be in Dixon? Is this something, are we going to have to see her and deal with this?’ That’s not something victims want to see.”
Prior to her conviction, Arellano says Crundwell was thought to be trustworthy.
“She was give so much power in that form of government, that everyone just trusted and relied on her and gave her the pocketbook,” Arellano said. “Everyone trusted Rita. But, [as former president and Dixon native Ronald] Reagan said, ‘trust but verify.’ We forgot the verify it part.”
Chuck Jones insured Crundwell’s farm properties, but says he was naïve about her duplicity.
“We assumed she was making a lot of money selling pure bread quarter horses,” he said. “I have no ide why…nobody seems to know why she was released this early.”
Dixon resident Chloe Coil said, “People think Dixon trusts people like that with our money. It’s embarassing.”
Arellano added, “We’ve put a lot of work into recovering, financially and socially, from the damage she did and we’ve been successful at that. So, she’s out. But we’re not going to let anything like that happen again.”
Crundwell’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The Bureau of Prisons says she was released to a residential re-entry management field office, or halfway house, in the Chicago suburbs.
Dixon city leader say they have recovered $40 million of the $53 million dollars stolen by Crundwell.