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Official pleads not guilty to taking $53M from city

ROCKFORD — The former comptroller of a small northern Illinois city pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that she stole more than $53 million of the public’s money to fund a lavish lifestyle and create one of the nation’s foremost horse-breeding operations.

Rita Crundwell and her attorney, Paul Gaziano, refused to comment after leaving the federal courthouse in Rockford, where she pleaded not guilty to a single count of wire fraud. Ms. Crundwell, who is free on a recognizance bond, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors allege that from 1990, the 58-year-old Ms. Crundwell stole more than $53 million from Dixon, where she oversaw public finances as the city comptroller since the 1980s, by diverting it to an account she had set up for personal use and misleading city officials.

Authorities say Ms. Crundwell bought luxury homes and vehicles and spent millions on her horse-breeding operation, which produced 52 world champions in exhibitions run by the American Quarter Horse Association.

Prosecutors said her scheme unraveled only when a co-worker filling in for Ms. Crundwell while she was on an extended vacation stumbled upon the secret bank account.

Her arrest stunned tiny Dixon, a small city along a picturesque vein of the Mississippi River about a two-hour drive west of Chicago in Illinois farm country. Its 16,000 people are largely lower-middle-class, working at factories, grain farms, the local prison and a hospital, among other places.


5 charged in bomb plot plead not guilty

CLEVELAND — Five men described by the government as self-proclaimed anarchists entered not guilty pleas Monday to charges of plotting to bomb a highway bridge near Cleveland.

The five will remain in jail until their next hearing, a federal magistrate said. A detention hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed.

The men were arrested last week when they allegedly tried to detonate what turned out to be a dud bomb provided by an FBI undercover informant.

The five had been associated with Occupy Cleveland, but organizers of the movement have tried to distance the group from the men. They said the five didn’t represent it or its nonviolent philosophy.

The men were indicted last week on three counts each, including a charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property in interstate commerce.

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