Public Servants, Private Crooks: Part 1

By Tom McIntyre

May 21, 2013 Updated Nov 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM CDT

The New York Times once wrote that Illinois had an 'expectation of corruption' by public officials.

Given that four Illinois Governors have gone to prison in recent years, that is not an unreasonable assumption. Still, it was the actions of one civil servant in a small Illinois town that really opened people's eyes.

Rita Crundwell's theft of $53 million over 20 years from the city coffers of Dixon, Illinois is one of the largest municipal embezzlements in America. Residents were astonished. Town officials embarrassed but how she did it was not very difficult.

"Monies were moved from account to account, false invoices were prepared," said Gary Shapiro or the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Nevertheless, 21 years of this going on and never getting caught just defies the imagination."

She got away with it because for the yearly audits of city finances, she provided the numbers.

Crundwell got a nearly 20 year prison term. Her belongings; homes, vehicles, horses, gone to pay her debt to Dixon.

Before anyone feels smug about this loss happening to the city of Dixon, think back 11 years to Woodford County Sheriff Bill Myers.

Myers admitted stealing $230,000 from taxpayers over a five year period, taking ATM cash advances at a Creve Coeur strip club and the Par-a-dice, and stealing a $30,000 state grant. He got a 3 year prison term.

After 74-year-old Katherine Capponi retired from the Roanoke School District, the school board was shocked to discover nearly $1.2 million was missing over a ten year period. There could have been more. 2002 was as far as checks went back.

Capponi was sent to prison for eight years.

State's Attorney Jerry Brady sees a common theme and a common excuse.

"I intended to pay it back so therefore I cannot say that I had a criminal intent or a criminal mind. So therefore I'm not a criminal," said Brady.

Crundwell, and many others, fit right into what's called the "fraud triangle". They have a perceived need for money, the opportunity to take it and a lack of oversight to get away with it.

Then there's the trust factor.

"People place trust in that elected position and additionally there is not quite as much check and balance as you have in the private sector," said Brady.

Trust...Ronald Reagan had something to say about trust and so does "Fraud" magazine. That's right, there's enough fraud in America to have a whole magazine dedicated to it.

Tuesday night, we'll hear from Reagan, and Fraud Magazine, as we talk about how to defeat fraud in America.

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