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State

Ex-Dixon treasurer pleads not guilty

(MCT) — Former longtime Dixon Treasurer Rita Crundwell entered a not-guilty plea in Lee County criminal court Wednesday to 60 counts of theft tied to her alleged embezzlement of $53 million from city coffers over more than two decades.

Crundwell, 59, appeared before Judge Ronald Jacobson for her arraignment on the felony counts, said a spokeswoman for Lee County State's Attorney Henry Dixon.

Crundwell faces charges on two legal fronts. She was first charged by federal prosecutors in April on a single count of wire fraud. As part of that prosecution, federal authorities have raised more than $7 million by auctioning off her luxury motor home and about 400 quarter horses she owned in her championship breeding operation based in Dixon. The net profits from those sales would go to Dixon if Crundwell is convicted on the federal charge.

More recently, prosecutors in Lee County brought the theft charges against Crundwell, saying she made 60 illegal transfers from a city account to one she controlled. Each transfer involved sums of $100,000 to $350,000 and took place between January 2010 and her April arrest, authorities said.

If convicted, each count carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison. The federal fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Until her arrest, Crundwell had been treasurer since 1983 for Dixon, a northwestern Illinois city best known as the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.

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