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4/30/2013 1:00:00 PM
Charges dropped against ex-bookkeeper in Ill.

DIXON, Ill. (AP) — A former city comptroller who recently began serving a lengthy federal prison sentence for stealing nearly $54 million from her northern Illinois community will not be tried a second time on state charges.

Lee County State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller dropped the 60 counts of felony theft that Rita Crundwell still faced during a hearing Tuesday in Lee County Circuit Court in Dixon.

Crundwell, who was Dixon’s longtime bookkeeper, admitted in federal court in November that she siphoned the public money into a secret bank account over some two decades and used the money to fund her lavish lifestyle and her renowned horse-breeding operation. The money went toward everything from expensive horse trailers and luxury motor homes, to jewelry and birthday bashes in Venice Beach, Fla. It ranks as one of the worst abuses of public trust in the state’s corruption-rich history.

Because Crundwell had sole control of the city’s bookkeeping, the theft went unnoticed for years, even as the city’s financial shape suffered, with streets and equipment falling into disrepair and city employees going without raises. There wasn’t even enough money to mow the grass at the cemetery.

The scheme unraveled only when a colleague who filled in for her when she went on an extended vacation became suspicious.

Crundwell was sentenced in federal court in February to nearly 20 years in prison. Her attorney in the state case, Bob Thompson, had argued that subjecting her to another trial would amount to double jeopardy and said elements of the two cases overlapped.

The state case covered only the period from January 2010 until Crundwell’s arrest in April 2012, during which time she was accused of stealing about $11 million.

Sacco-Miller was expected to hold a news conference after Tuesday’s hearing.

The 60-year-old Crundwell is jailed in Boone County pending her assignment to a federal prison. She did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing.

The city of Dixon wanted to move forward with the state charges. Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said the city was in favor of seeing Crundwell back in court, and the Dixon City Council expressed a similar view.


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