John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
According to feds, the former Dixon, Illinois, comptroller spent much of the $53 million she's accused of stealing on horses with names like "Packin' Jewels" and "Have Faith in Money."
Even with just the $30 million in public funds that federal investigators initially believed Rita Crundwell stole from Dixon, Illinois, an expert was calling the alleged crime "the perfect storm of embezzlement." But that storm just plumped out into a Category 5 Hurricane of Embezzlement, as prosecutors have upped their estimate of Crundwell's take to an astounding $53 million.
The former comptroller and current horse breeder was able to take so much because the financial controls in Dixon stunk and because she spread the stealing out over 22 years, says the U.S. government. The town's mayor and city council didn't get suspicious about all the disappearing money, because Crundwell told them that the state was simply late on payments due to Dixon. (Really? That actually worked for more than two decades?) Much of the cash went to the pol's beloved horses, which bear hilariously apt names like "Packin' Jewels," "Potential Fortune," "Have Faith in Money" and "She Scores."
Here's the Tribune giving more insight on how Crundwell is said to have pulled off the crime:
Experts have said numerous financial safeguards broke down or simply didn’t exist in the city of just under 16,000. For one, Crundwell had almost complete control over finances, authorities said. She also picked up the city’s mail to keep city officials from learning about the secret bank account she used to funnel herself the money, investigators alleged Tuesday. When she took a vacation, she had a relative handle the chore, they said.
Like taking candy from a baby. All of Crundwell's noble animals are all headed for the auction block as the government struggles to scrape back some of the AWOL cash. In the meantime, we here at The Atlantic Cities have to update an earlier post about America's top municipal embezzlers. In it, I named Harriette Walters, a former tax office manager in the District of Columbia government, as the undisputed leader of the pack. But to believe these new estimates, it seems that Walters was a mere thievin' baby crawling around Crundwell's pimped-out stables.
We're sorry to have doubted you, Crundwell: You are America's new Embezzlement Queen!
Fan of cash by MoneyBlogNewz.