Kelly Richmond Pope is a professor at DePaul University, Chicago, and she understands how numbers can be manipulated.
She also understands full well what happened in Dixon, Illinois, where Rita Crundwell, the former Dixon comptroller, was convicted of stealing nearly $54 million from the city.
Kelly Richmond Pope made a documentary called “All the Queen’s Horses” about the case of Rita Crundwell, who was sentenced in 2013 to nearly 20 years in prison. Pope, who teaches a graduate course in forensic accounting, continues to follow the case and shares the case, along with the film, with her students.
“I always talk about ‘All the Queen’s Horses’ with my students. Always,” Pope said. “It’s gonna be, when I die, it’s gonna be on my tombstone: Kelly Richmond Pope and ‘All the Queen’s Horses.'”
The students ask the same questions.
“How does one person steal $53 million and no one know it?’ That was the log line then,” Pope said. “If I were to make a movie today, it would be ‘How does a person steal $53 million dollars and only serve half, less than half of their prison sentence?'”
Pope heard rumors about a possible early release for Crundwell.
“I was like, of course it’s not gonna happen. But things have been brewing because of Covid, because of the Bureau of Prisons trying to contain or keep inmates safe,” Pope said.
She was shocked when she learned Crundwell had been released to a halfway house.
“This is really unheard of,” she said. “If you think about it, it’s like, unbelievable that someone who is known as the largest municipal fraud perpetrator in U. S. history was released to a more comfortable situation.”
The Bureau of Prisons says she was released to a residential halfway house in the Chicago suburbs. Dixon city leaders say they recovered $40 million of the $53 million she embezzled.
Now that there’s a new twist to the story, might another documentary be a consideration? Crundwell would need to consent to an interview.
“The question really is why,” Pope said. “It’s no longer ‘Why did Rita steal?’ The question now is ‘Why was she released?’ So the follow-up documentary really has little to do with her and more around the rules about
what allowed this to happen.”
It’s impossible to say what will happen to Crundwell. Pope’s advice?
“Get your popcorn and sit down and watch.”