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Rita Crundwell was the type of person that everyone trusted. As the comptroller and treasurer of the small town of Dixon, Illinois, she was well versed in company finances. Whenever anyone had a question, they were advised to “ask Rita.” In 2011, the city commissioner praised Rita as someone who “looks after every tax dollar as if it were her own.” What the commissioner and the rest of Dixon did not realize was that Rita Crundwell took this view quite literally.
In addition to her trusted position with the city, Rita was also a champion quarter horse breeder. She had won 52 world thoroughbred championships and owned hundreds of horses. The competitions often took Rita away from her city job, but she would dock her pay for the extra time she took off. In 2011 during one of her trips, a city clerk took over Rita’s job and came across a strange-looking bank account in the city’s name. Money from the account was being used to purchase lavish items such as jewelry and boats. The suspicious account was reported to the mayor and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). After taking five months to build their case, the FBI arrested Rita Crundwell for municipal fraud on April 17, 2012.
The extent of the fraud was staggering. Rita Crundwell had first opened the fictional account in 1990, meaning that she had successfully stolen from the city for 22 years before being arrested. In those two decades she stole over $53 million from a city of less than 16,000 people. Dixon, Illinois—known for being the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan—has now gained the distinction of being the victim of the largest municipal fraud to date.
Rita Crundwell was born in 1953 to Ray and Caroline Humphrey. Despite a modest income, Rita’s mother Caroline loved showing quarter horses, a passion that Rita inherited as she grew up on her family’s farm. While one family member has expressed the belief that Rita was entitled as a child, nothing much about her childhood hinted at the massive fraud she would commit years later.
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