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CHICAGO (AP) - A federal appeals court is upholding a nearly 20-year prison sentence for a thieving former bookkeeper who stole almost $54 million from the northern Illinois community of Dixon.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously upheld Rita Crundwell's 235-month sentence on Friday.

Crundwell pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced in February to about 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Crundwell stole the money over 22 years as Dixon's bookkeeper, even while the city was having trouble paying its bills. She used the money to live lavishly and to build a nationally renowned horse-breeding operation.

Crundwell's lawyer is Paul Gaziano, who declined to comment Friday.

He'd tried to argue a judge abused his discretion when giving Crundwell more time than recommended under federal guidelines.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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