A grandmotherly comptroller has apparently committed the mother of all embezzlements.
Folks in the Lee County community of Dixon were stunned by the news that longtime city comptroller Rita Crundwell was charged with embezzling roughly $30 million.
Now they're positively agog because federal investigators have raised their estimate of missing taxpayer money to $53 million.
Who knew that the small town had $53 million, let alone that the money could be stolen over 20-plus years and not missed by anyone?
The theft was uncovered recently while the 59-year-old Crundwell was on vacation. Her replacement discovered a secret bank account and started asking questions.
The theft is not the only outrageous part of the story.
Crundwell, who earned roughly $80,000 as comptroller, was living a life of luxury and enjoying a tremendous reputation in the horse-breeding business. Authorities have seized roughly 300 horses on Crundwell's Dixon farm as well as other significant assets she purchased.
Suffice it to say, Dixon city fathers have some explaining to do. Didn't anyone ever wonder why there were cash-flow issues? Didn't anyone ever wonder how she could make such large purchases on her $80,000 annual salary? Don't they have competent auditors in that neck of the woods?
The size of the thefts, the length of time over which they occurred and the astounding failure of oversight by city officials border on the incomprehensible.
Then again, corruption in government in Illinois isn't exactly new. Like a lot of Illinois public officials, Crundwell saw her opportunities and made the most of them.