On Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Rita Crundwell, the city comptroller for Dixon, on accusations that she misappropriated over $30 million in city funds in only the last six years. She is currently charged with just one count of wire fraud, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The accusations are particularly surprising considering the small northwest Illinois town has an annual budget of only $8 million to $9 million. Last year, the city implemented budget cuts in response to its recent financial crunch.
As the city comptroller for three decades, Crundwell monitored nearly all funds that passed through Dixon. Despite a salary of $80,000, in recent years Crundwell has spent $340,000 on jewelry, $2.1 million on a luxury motor home, and huge sums on her horse farms where she raises champion quarter horses.
Many Dixon residents assumed she made her fortune in the horse business. However, Crundwell was reportedly using a secret bank account to conceal her large-scale use of public funds on personal expenses.
Each year, Crundwell took off four months to operate her horse business and travel to shows. Last October during one of these breaks, Crundwell's spending spree was brought to an end. An employee filling in for Crundwell discovered that the secret account included many six-figure transactions. He notified the FBI.
Generally, wire fraud crimes encompass any fraudulent scheme to acquire money or property through the use of interstate "wires," meaning television, Internet, telephones, or radio. Wire fraud is almost always a federal offense because of the interstate nature of telecommunications.
Many Dixon workers were slow to suspect Rita Crundwell because of how long she had been working for the city. Crundwell is scheduled to appear at a detention hearing Wednesday afternoon.