A local comptroller for the small town of Dixon, Illinois, had recently pled guilty to charges of federal wire fraud. State prosecutors accused her of diverting funds from the city's accounts to her own, financing the purchase of a vacation home, a farm, a luxury trailer, and hundreds of show horses.
She faces both state and federal felony charges, including money laundering. Based on the plea deal that she and her attorney worked out with state prosecutors, she will be sentenced in February and faces a possible 20 years behind bars.
The woman owned hundreds of horses that the prosecutors say were bought with money stolen from the city. As a part of the plea deal, the horses and her other assets that were allegedly bought with stolen money are being sold to repay the city. So far, the sale of 400 horses has raised over $6 million, covering a majority of the $7.4 million that prosecutors estimate she stole over the years.
Money laundering and wire fraud are complex charges that relate to financial or white collar crimes. In this case, the woman faces those charges for apparently falsifying invoices and paying herself for services that appeared to be legitimate municipal expenses. One example is an alleged $350,000 invoice she produced and attributed to the state of Illinois for a sewer project, but instead deposited that check into an account that later purchased a show horse.
Choosing to enter into a plea deal with prosecutors is a tough decision for anyone accused of a crime. Sometimes defendants choose to create a plea agreement in order to avoid the stress and extended process of a trial. Others choose the agreement if the evidence that the state plans to produce seems extremely likely to convince a jury of their guilt, which could often result in a longer prison sentence or greater penalties.
Source: Wall Street Journal, "Guilty Plea in $53 Million Public Theft," Mark Peters, Nov. 14, 2012.
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