CHICAGO, April 28, 2012— Dixon, Illinois is a sleepy little town on the Rock River. The town was the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. His family moved to Dixon when he was nine years old.
Dixon has a population of 15,500 people. The annual budget of Dixon ranges between $8 and $9 million dollars.
With that in mind, could someone please explain how one single person could siphon off $30 million dollars of the town’s revenues over six years? Is there some kind of reasonable or unreasonable explanation how $30 million dollars could just go poof and no one ever discovered it?
Being a sleepy little town is one thing. Being asleep at the switch is something else. No one in the town government or the banks that handled the town’s finances realized that $30 million dollars vanished into thin air.
No one caught on that an average of five million dollars a year was being bled out of the town’s coffers. No alarm bells went off anywhere. $30 million dollars went somewhere.
Rita Crundwell started working for the town of Dixon part time when she was 18 years old. She grew up ouside Dixon on her family’s farm. In the early 1980s she was appointed as the town’s comptroller. She then became Dixon’s treasurer
She deposited the revenue and dispersed it. That goes against all the basic accounting rules for cash management, including the ones “For Dummies”.
Crundwell has been described as brilliant, a dedicated bureaucrat, the go to person for everything in city hall, extremely helpful to the citizens, her fellow employees, and the town’s commissioners. She even performed the duties of some of the commissioners when they were unavailable. She made herself indispensable.
Rita Crundwell had a stellar reputation and a great deal of influence. She was paid $80,000.00 per year.
No one questioned her wealth. Small town people mind their own business. Most people thought she earned her money through her two horse farms.
Rita Crundwell bred, raised, and showed championship Quarter Horses. Her two farms were world famous for the 52 champions they produced.
Rita Crundwell acted like other wealthy people in and around Dixon. Just like normal folks. She blended in.
Rita Crundwell took a vacation in October. The city clerk handled her duties while she was gone. The clerk noticed irregularities in the bank accounts and brought them to the attention of the mayor. Rita Crundwell’s scam started to unravel.
The mayor called in the F.B.I. An investigation was launched in secret. Six months later Rita Crundwell was led out of city hall in handcuffs.
It was determined Ms. Crundwell stole 0ver $30 million dollars during a six year period. Her scam was elegantly simple, which is why it no one discovered it sooner.
Ms. Crundwell took advantage of structural weaknesses in the city’s finance system. She exploited her helpful, outgoing, and knowledgeable persona. She was very influential. Rita Crundwell was the last person anyone would suspect of doing anything wrong.
Her sterling reputation and influence created an aura of trustworthiness.
City officials, auditors, and even the media are scratching their heads over how $30 million dollars could just vanish over six years with no one catching it. Yearly audits, required by state law, did not catch the missing millions. No adverse findings or non-compliance issues were ever reported.
Negligence and incompetence come to mind. But that is too easy.
From all appearances, as long as the bills were being paid no one paid attention. City officials never knew how much money they had or how much they were spending. Rita Crundwell did.
When the economy took a dive Dixon’s revenues were hit just like other towns in Illinois. The State of Illinois was late in dispersing revenues and cutting them back. Dixon cut services just like every other municipality.
Imagine $30 million dollars being transferred out of the town’s accounts over six years and no one noticed. No one, not even the mayor or city council, cared enough to check their own books. Good old Rita was there protecting their interests. Good old Rita came up with the reasons why revenues were down.
Why is this tale of small town chicanery and skullduggery interesting? Except for the $30 million dollars it really isn’t.
But, it was reported authorities finally discovered the whereabouts of the $1.2 billion dollars that vanished when MF Global went bankrupt. It was the eighth largest bankruptcy in history. Jon Corzine, who just happens to be a trusted friend of the president, was MF Global’s C.E.O.
Jon Corzine who stated over and over and over again he did not know how $1.2 billion dollars just disappeared into thin air. Jon Corzine who was befuddled as he testified before congress over the disappearance of $1.2 billion dollars.
Job Corzine, and everyone else at MF Global, claimed ignorance over the wherabouts of $1.2 billion dollars.
Rita Crundwell was arrested at her office and taken away in handcuffs by the feds. Jon Corzine is one of President Obama’s top campaign bundlers. He is out there, free as a bird, raising money for his pal the president.
All power behind federal law enforcement and the regulatory arms of the government are powerless against him. Corzine’s mindless idiot act worked. Corzine was trusted when he swore he knew nothing about anything.
Something smells very bad here. About as bad as the equine excrement Rita Crundwell’s champion Quarter Horses produce.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone.
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