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State

Ex-Chicago-area treasurer appeals sentence

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Rita Crundwell, the disgraced former Dixon treasurer who stole tens of millions of dollars from city coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle, is appealing her recent sentence of almost 20 years in prison.

A federal judge in Rockford imposed a sentence of 19 years and 7 months in prison last month, citing the “sheer magnitude” of her fraud scheme. Crundwell siphoned almost $54 million from the northwestern Illinois city over 22 years, enabling her to finance a championship quarter horse breeding operation, buy up real estate and purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of jewelry.

Crundwell’s attorney, Paul Gaziano declined to comment Thursday on the appeal. A notice was filed Tuesday with the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. Her lawyers were given until next month to file a legal brief in support of their appeal.

Crundwell, 60, pleaded guilty in November to a single count of wire fraud. Following her arrest last April, she had cooperated with authorities, divulging the numerous assets she held. Sentencing papers show she clearly hoped to receive far less than the maximum 20-year sentence.

With Crundwell’s assistance, federal authorities have sold off some 400 horses, her sprawling ranch in Dixon, a luxury motor home and dozens of pieces of jewelry.

On Thursday, Belkis Sandoval, a senior inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service, said authorities expect some $10 million to be returned to Dixon from the sales.

Crundwell still faces 60 counts of felony theft in Lee County court for her massive fraud. Her attorney has moved to dismiss those state charges, noting her lengthy prison sentence on the similar federal charge.

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(Tribune reporter Melissa Jenco contributed.)

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