Dixon comptroller who stole $54M released from prison after serving half of sentence

WGN Investigates

DIXON, Ill. — The small northwest Illinois town of Dixon was home to the biggest municipal heist in state history and now the mastermind behind it is apparently out of prison. 

Former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell was convicted of stealing nearly $54 million from the community and sentenced to serve 19 years and seven months in prison. Now, city officials say prison officials have told them she has been released to home confinement after serving less than half that sentence.

“It is incredibly frustrating that Dixon was given no victim notification of Rita Crundwell’s release,” Dixon Mayor Liandro Arellano said in a statement posted by the city. “Dixonites are still dealing with the social and financial aftermath of the damage she did, and our community deserved notice of and reasoning for this decision.”  

Federal prosecutors said Crundwell spent decades siphoning-off the money from Dixon public funds to finance her lavish lifestyle which included ownership of a horse farm, valuable horses, jewelry, vehicles and participation in nationally recognized equestrian competitions.  

Federal prison records still list Crundwell as being located at the prison in Pekin, Illinois. However, sources say that listing will remain because Pekin prison officials will supervise her home confinement.  The Biden administration has been under pressure to release some non-violent offenders as well as inmates nearing the completion of their sentences to ease crowding during the pandemic. Crundwell was expected to have been required to serve at least 85% of her prison sentence. 

The Bureau of Prisons lists her projected release date as October 20, 2029.

“City Manager Danny Langloss contacted the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin and confirmed that Rita Crundwell had been released,” Dixon officials said in a statement posted online.  “The prison official who provided this information did not know the reason for Crundwell’s early release.”

In May of 2020, WGN Investigates reported Crundwell had petitioned prison officials for release due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its spread through congregate settings.

“With my deteriorating health condition and the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel like I have been given a death sentence,” she said in a handwritten letter in 2020.

The former horse breeder said she had kidney and hip trouble.

Crundwell said she’s known as a ‘model prisoner’ who has worked in the kitchen, as a seamstress and given positions of trust. Prison officials balked at the early release after elected officials from Dixon expressed their outrage.

The Bureau of Prisons is currently reporting no active Covid cases among inmates at the Pekin prison and one active case among a staff member.

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