DIXON – Rita Crundwell was released from federal prison in Pekin on Wednesday, well ahead of her scheduled release date of Oct. 20, 2029, Dixon City Administrator Danny Langloss said in a news release Wednesday.
Langloss learned of the release after calling the Pekin prison to confirm rumors buzzing around town.
The reason was not provided, Langloss said, but Crundwell last year sought compassionate release because she is ill and afraid of contracting COVID-19, she told a federal judge.
On Feb. 14, 2013, she was sentenced to 19 years 7 months for committing the biggest municipal fraud in U.S. history, stealing nearly $54 million from the city over 20 years to fund a lavish lifestyle raising champion quarterhorses and living high on the hog while Dixon struggled to pay for infrastructure and other projects.
Mayor Liandro Arellano is irritated that city officials received no official notification.
“It is incredibly frustrating that Dixon was given no victim notification of Rita Crundwell’s release,” he said in the news release.
“Dixonites are still dealing with the social and financial aftermath of the damage she did, and our community deserved notice of and reasoning for this decision.”
On April 22, 2020, Crundwell petitioned the man who sentenced her, Judge Philip Reinhard, for early release based on her “deteriorating health condition” and the pandemic.
“I know at my sentencing you felt I was not given a death sentence with my projected age of release of 77, but now with my deteriorating health condition, and the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel I have been given a death sentence,” Crundwell wrote in a 7-and-a-half page handwritten request filed that April 27 in federal court in Rockford.
In her letter, Crundwell cited several reason she believed she met the criteria for compassionate release. They included her age, then 67, her health issues, her status as model, minimum-security prisoner – which already had shaved 5 months off her sentence – that she had learned new skills (she was a seamstress in Waseca, her first lockup, for 4 years and worked in the kitchen in Pekin for 2) and that she can live with her brother, Richard Humphrey, in Dixon.
At the time, she said her health issues included “chronic hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic pain from severe scoliosis, and a pinched sciatic nerve in lower back causing constant pain and numbness to my toes.
“I had one hip replaced 8/17 in Carswell Medical Center and the doctor warned the other hip will need to be replaced due to deterioration caused by arthritis. I currently have only 56% of my kidney usage remaining due to the large amounts of ibuprofen I was prescribed for four years by the doctor in Waseca, MN (her first federal lockup) for the chronic pain. …
“I also just had a mass removed April 20, 2020, from under my right arm that they were afraid might be a malignant tumor due to my long family history of cancer,” she wrote.
If released, Crundwell said she would seek employment and help her brother out around his farm in rural Dixon.
“I will be very low-keyed. I am going to do everything possible to make up for my mistakes. I have taken responsibility for my actions since the first day.
“I will do anything in my power to repay the citizens of Dixon for my crime,” she wrote.
Reinhard advised her to seek release via all means possible through the Pekin warden and the prison system before seeking a judicial ruling.
On May 10, 2020, on behalf of the Dixon City Council, Langloss issued a letter to her warden strongly opposing early release.
On May 18, 2020, she withdrew her request “in light of actions taken by the warden of the Pekin Correctional Facility.”
“Ms. Crundwell intends to pursue administrative appeal procedures available to her through the Bureau of Prisons,” her appointed attorney, federal defender Paul E. Gaziano, said in his motion to withdraw.
Apparently, that process was a success.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the circumstances of her release.