May 2, 2012 / 2:50 AM / 7 years ago

Woman accused of bilking $53 million from Reagan's boyhood hometown

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A former finance official stole more than $53 million in city funds from former President Ronald Reagan’s boyhood hometown in Illinois in a fraud that spanned more than two decades, U.S. prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Rita Crundwell, 59, who had served as comptroller of Dixon, Illinois since 1983, used the money to buy three homes, more than a dozen cars, trucks and other vehicles, and to invest in a horse farm that has 311 quarter horses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago said.

Crundwell was arrested in mid-April and charged with stealing $30 million from the city between 2006 and 2012. Prosecutors said she funneled the money into a secret account she controlled.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said further investigation found that the alleged fraud began in 1990 and involved more than $53 million in funds from the city of about 15,000 people, located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

Reagan spent most of his boyhood in Dixon.

Crundwell, who handled all the city’s finances, illegally transferred the funds out of various city bank accounts into a personal account she set up and used various deceits to conceal her actions, prosecutors said.

The illegal transfers remained undetected until recently when a co-worker discovered the secret account and transfers while Crundwell was on an extended vacation.

Crundwell has been charged with one count of wire fraud and is due to appear in a U.S. District Court in Rockford, Illinois, on May 7. She faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence as well as a fine if convicted of wire fraud.

Prosecutors also want to seize her two residences and horse farm in Dixon, a home in Englewood, Florida, a $2.1 million luxury motor home, and more than a dozen trucks, trailers and other motorized farm vehicles, including a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette.

Crundwell’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Paul Simao

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