The comptroller of Dixon, Illinois, was recently arrested on charges that she had embezzled more than $30 million in city funds.
Rita Crundwell's alleged misappropriation was uncovered by an employee who took over her duties while she took a leave of absence to operate her 150-horse ranch and travel to horse shows. The worker discovered an account that was the source of multiple six-figure transactions and listed Crundwell as a co-holder.
A recovery audit revealed that Crundwell appeared to have used city funds for a number of personal purchases, including a $2.1 million motor home.
According to Dixon Mayor James Burke, Crundwell managed to cover her tracks thoroughly enough for her scheme to escape detection by state reviews of municipal documents, as well as annual accounts payable audits prepared by two different firms.
"We realize the main question is how can someone allegedly steal 30 million dollars and get away with it for so long?" Burke said in a statement quoted by MSNBC.
FBI spokesman Royden Rice told the news source that while his organization does not keep records of past public embezzlement cases, Crundwell's misappropriation was "a very large fraud considering the size of Dixon."
Indeed, as the Chicago Tribune notes, Dixon operates on an annual budget of approximately $8 million to $9 million. Its small size is likely to have facilitated the embezzlement.
"Nobody was watching the store," local resident Ron Pritchard told the media outlet. "We don't have the checks and balances."
Although Crundwell had an annual salary of $80,000, people assumed her lavish lifestyle was being funded by the profits she made in the horse business. Her ranch's website – which was taken down after the alleged misappropriation hit the headlines – boasted that Crundwell-bred horses have won 52 world championships, according to MSNBC.