UPDATED: 2/14/2013 1:15 p.m.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (CBS) – The former comptroller in Dixon, Ill., was sentenced Thursday to 19 1/2 years in prison for embezzling $53 million from the town.
After the sentencing, Rita Crundwell’s bond was revoked and she was taken into immediate custody.
“This has been a massive stealing of public money – monies entrusted to you as a public guardian of Dixon, Ill.,” Judge Reinhard said in imposing sentence.
Crundwell, who had pleaded guilty to the theft of city funds, said she was sorry for her actions.
“I am truly sorry to the city of Dixon and to my family and friends,” she said through sobs.
Before the sentencing, Dixon Mayor Jim Burke testified that Crundwell must pay a stiff price for embezzling more than $53 million in public funds, a crime he said forced taxpayers to “pay for her high-flying super-ego lifestyle.”
He said the Dixon community was not vindictive or vengeful over the embezzlement. But he added Crundwell had been trusted with the city’s finances. The embezzlement affected every level of city government in Dixon, and at one point city employees went two years without raises as a result, he said.
Not everyone was convinced Crundwell is contrite.
“I don’t know if she’s truly sorry or not. I don’t know how she was able to sleep all those years knowing what she was doing to my hometown,” former Dixon resident Mary Hahn, who attended the sentencing, told reporters.
Earlier, an FBI special agent testified there was no question about Crundwell’s guilt, only her motives.
FBI Special Agent Patrick Gary testified he interviewed Crundwell in April 2012 at Burke’s office.
He said Crundwell told him the embezzlement it started in 1999 or 2000 when she wanted to buy a horse named “She’s Exclusive Baby.” But Gary said the embezzling really started ten years earlier, in 1990.
He also said he found 159 fake invoices in her desk, which appeared to be payments to the state for public works projects. In reality, he said, she created them and put the money into a secret account she controlled.
Prosecutors, who sought the maximum penalty, used the agent’s testimony to show that Crundwell was not as cooperative as her attorney has suggested.
Crundwell’s attorney has asked for a sentence of closer to 12 years, saying she has cooperated with investigators. She still faces 60 criminal charges in state court in Lee County, and has pleaded not guilty in that case.