19 years and 7 months is the sentence handed down to Rita Crundwell Thursday on her federal wire fraud charge. That's close to the maximum penalty for the former Dixon, Illinois comptroller who admitted to stealing $53 million from the city. Many say it's a beginning of some closure.
From Dixon to Rockford and across the state, Rita Crundwell's long-awaited sentence in federal court was the focus Thursday for everyone impacted by the 20-year, $53 million scheme. "The embarrassment the public sees in Dixon now, the public shoulders that," said Dixon resident Rich Lawton.
Before the 19-year, 7 month sentence was handed down a packed courtroom watched as Crundwell tearfully apologized for her actions. Many say that should have come sooner, and they question her sincerity.
"She had a wonderful life. She had everything she could, she had diamonds and houses. She enjoyed living," said Josie Whaley, another Dixon resident.
"It was very emotional because I want to see her get the maximum sentence, but it's a personal tragedy. She had to pay the price," said Dixon Mayor Jim Burke.
The 235-month sentence is what the prosecution argued for, calling it appropriate because of the crime committed and effects it had on the city. "Different department heads are having to make drastic cuts to their budget... while at the same time she's stealing millions of dollars from the city of Dixon to fund her dream," said Joe Pederson, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Crundwell was immediately taken into custody as she was considered to be too much of a flight risk. As far as her assets, U.S. Marshals are close to having them all sold off. The city may only get about $10 million back, but it's a start to picking up the pieces.
"The people of Dixon are looking ahead more than they are looking back," added Mayor Burke.
Crundwell still faces 60 separate but related state felony theft charges.