CHICAGO -- Brandishing a giant bottle of whiskey and wearing a sparkly Zorro mask, disgraced former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell preened for the camera as she held a sign reading "It's good to be Queen."
It's the kind of "gotcha" photo the media would have loved to have unearthed back in 2012, when Crundwell was busted for embezzling an incredible $54 million from taxpayers in Ronald Reagan's small hometown in downstate Illinois.
But the photo wasn't discovered by reporters -- it was unearthed by Kelly Richmond Pope, a forensic accountant and accounting professor at DePaul University who included it in "All the Queen's Horses," a new documentary film she made with the help of North Side documentary powerhouses Kartemquin Films.
"I'm sure that I'm the only accounting professor in the country who is making feature films," Pope, of Oak Park, told the Chicago Tribune. "I've always loved accounting!"
Pope spent 5 1/2 years making the film about Crundwell, who stole from Dixon over a 22-year period to fund a lavish lifestyle and championship-winning horse breeding business.
Crundwell, who is serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison, declined to be interviewed by Pope, who made whistleblower and Dixon City Clerk Kathe Swanson the star of the film. Pope previously made educational short films about fraud and hopes the Crundwell movie will serve as a warning to a larger audience about "just how much fraud goes undetected."
And though Crundwell wouldn't talk to her, Pope has some mementos of the crime, bought at an auction used to make restitution to Dixon taxpayers.
"I have 10 horse statues from her home -- my husband is always asking, 'What are these doing here?' But I had to have them," she said. Asked if she wore a Rita Crundwell shirt she also bought at auction for Halloween, Pope said, "I'm not telling you that!"
Crundwell's attorney did not return messages seeking comment.
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