Former Dixon, Ill., Comptroller Rita Crundwell entered a guilty plea last week to federal fraud charges for stealing $53 million in city funds since 1990 to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a quarter horse farming business.

Crundwell, 59, also admitted to money laundering. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 14.

The U.S. Marshals Service has raised $7.4 million from the auction of her assets, including 400 quarter horses, vehicles, trailers, and a luxury motor home.

“Since the outset of this case, we have used every available means, including both criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings, to ensure the recovery of as much money as possible for the city of Dixon, its residents and taxpayers,” said Gary Shapiro, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Dixon is located 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

As comptroller, Crundwell handled all of the city’s finances from 1983 until authorities arrested her in April. Between 1990 and April 2012, she transfered money from the city’s money market fund to a capital development fund and other city bank accounts and then into a city account she controlled.

She created fictitious invoices to hide her actions and lied to city officials about city budget deficits, telling them that state tax payment delays were to blame.

Her schemes were uncovered by another city worker who filled in for her during a vacation in fall 2011. That employee reviewed city bank statements and thought something was amiss and informed the city’s mayor of the discrepancies.

Crundwell is also facing state criminal charges of felony theft filed by Lee County prosecutors.

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