Rita Crundwell, former comptroller for Dixon, Ill., leaves federal court in Rockford, Ill., Monday, May 7, 2012, after pleading not guilty at her arraignment to charges that accuse her of stealing tens of millions of dollars from the community. Prosecutors contend that Crundwell had been transferring Dixon's money to a secret account since at 1990 and using the money to create one of the nation's leading horse-breeding operations and buy luxury homes, cars and jewelry. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)
A former city bookkeeper who embezzled almost $54 million from her northern Illinois hometown will appeal the length of her nearly 20-year prison sentence, her attorneys indicated in a Monday court filing.
Rita Crundwell siphoned funds from the city of Dixon to pay for properties, personal luxuries and a nationally known horse-breeding operation in one of the worst abuses of public trust in the state's corruption-plagued history.
Crundwell's attorneys filed a court document that says they intend to appeal to the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, but that detailed arguments as to why they believe the sentence was too stiff would come later. One of Crundwell's attorneys, Paul Gaziano, declined comment later Monday.
Crundwell, 60, pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling the money from 1991 until her arrest last April.
During her sentencing on Feb. 14, Crundwell tearfully apologized and her attorneys asked for a sentence of about 13 years. But U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard instead sentenced her to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison, just shy of the maximum 20 years.
"You showed a much greater passion for the welfare of your horses than you did for the people of Dixon who you represented," Reinhard told her. He also said Crundwell had "crippled" Dixon.
Heads of various departments also took turns describing how her scheme devastated the city. Police, for instance, didn't get radio equipment and there wasn't enough money to mow the grass at the cemetery.
Crundwell still faces 60 separate but related state felony charges for theft in Lee County. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.