Texas boarder, vet to get share of sale proceeds

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ROCKFORD – As ousted Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell’s criminal case inches forward, some headway was made Wednesday regarding her large herd of quarter horses.

Federal prosecutors and an attorney for one of two interveners in the civil suit seeking to sell Crundwell’s horses say they’ve reached an agreement regarding liens on 54 horses.

Brock and Kristin Allen of Allen Equine Services, and veterinarians A. Barry Wood and Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, all of Texas, say they have liens in excess of $150,000 for boarding and caring for Crundwell’s horses there.

The agreement essentially recognizes the liens and says they will receive a portion of the proceeds from selling the horses once the case is resolved. How much was not specified.

Some details of the agreement still are being worked out; it might be filed today or Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paccagnini said.

Joel Hutori, attorney for the Texas interveners, declined to comment Wednesday.

A status hearing will be held Oct. 10.

Crundwell, 59, is charged with federal wire fraud as part of what prosecutors say was a scheme in which she misappropriated more than $53 million of Dixon’s money since 1990.

They say she used the money to fund her horse operations and her “lavish lifestyle.”

On May 1, the same day she was indicted, prosecutors filed a lawsuit seeking to sell Crundwell’s 401 horses and other items that they say were bought with illegal funds.

The following month, Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney gave the U.S. Marshals Service the OK to sell the horses, 21 embryos, 13 saddles, and frozen semen from eight horses.

The bulk of the herd will be sold Sept. 23 and 24 during at an auction at her ranch at 1556 Red Brick Road south of Dixon.

The out-of-state horses will be sold online Sept. 11 and 12. The proceeds from the sale, minus the costs incurred by the marshals and liens, will be given to the city once the case is resolved.

The Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wis., which has boarded horses for Crundwell since the 1990s, also has been allowed to intervene in the case.

It, too, claims liens in excess of $150,000 from caring for 60 horses.

Its attorney, Rodney Kimes of Rockford, said Wednesday that he has spoken with prosecutors and anticipates a similar resolution.

Under the civil forfeiture statute, “innocent owner’s” interest in seized property will not be forfeited. An “innocent owner” is one who did not know of the illegal activity that led to the forfeiture.

The interveners in the case say they had no knowledge of Crundwell’s activities, according to court documents.

Crundwell, dressed in a white button-down shirt and black pants, showed little emotion at the short hearing, while attorneys discussed the sale of her horses.

Her public defender, Paul Gaziano, told Mahoney that he recently received another disk of evidence in the case and that he still is reviewing the more than 17,000 pages of discovery.

Mahoney gave Gaziano until the Oct. 10 status hearing to file pretrial motions.



Rita Crundwell back in court for status hearing

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Dixon’s former comptroller, accused of stealing over $53 million from the city, was back in court Wednesday for a status hearing.

Rita Crundwell got an update on both her criminal case, in which she faces one count of wire fraud, and her civil case, regarding the sale of assets authorities say she purchased with stolen money.

Crundwell’s criminal case is not yet ready to be transferred to another judge. She will appear in court again on October 10 and her attorney has until then to file a pretrial motion.

Her horses will be auctioned off next month. Once her horses are sold, her property and assets on those properties will also be sold. Crundwell will appear in court regarding these matters on October 10 as well.


Dixon Hires New Financial Director

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Dixon – The city turns the page on the Rita Crundwell scandal by hiring her replacement.

Paula Meyer takes over the newly created position of the city’s Financial Director. She most recently served as Dean of Business Services at Sauk Valley Community College.

Meyer will be in charge of financial planning, putting together a budget, and of course protecting the city’s assets. “It’s very exciting, it’s a new challenge” Meyer said during a press conference this afternoon. “It’s kind of a fresh start here for the city and we’re going to get things moving and headed in the right direction.

Meyer will make $95,000/year. She’ll start her new job next month.

Meanwhile, Crundwell is charged with wire fraud, accused of stealing more than $50 million from the city.



Online, live auction dates set for ex-Dixon comptroller’s horses

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DIXON — More than 400 horses that once belonged to former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell will be on the auction block next month, as the federal government tries to recoup the more than $53 million she allegedly stole from the city over a 20-year period.

An online auction will be held Sept. 11 and 12 and a live auction will follow Sept. 23 and 24 at Crundwell’s horse farm, located about 4 miles southeast of downtown Dixon. The preauction reports and bidding will be open to the public, said U.S. Marshal Darryl McPherson, and no private sales will be held.

McPherson said the Marshals Service and the FBI have worked jointly to identify more than 400 horses at 22 farms across 13 states and 17 federal judicial districts since Crundwell was arrested April 17.

“It has been a remarkable and unprecedented responsibility,” he said Friday, speaking from Crundwell’s farm at a news conference. “My objective is to provide the sound care for the horses while keeping costs under control to be able to return the greatest amount to any victims of the alleged crime at the conclusion of this process.”

Some of Crundwell’s horses are world-renowned and could fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, said Mike Jennings with Professional Auction Service Inc., of Round Hill, Va., the company that won the contract to conduct the auction.

Others, especially the younger horses, could go for more reasonable prices.

“I think there will be an opportunity for people in all walks of life to come buy a horse out of this program,” he said. “Some of the unproven young horses or maybe the older mares may be ways people can get in at a reasonable cost and the average family will have a chance to raise their champion horse down the line.”

The higher the sales prices on the horses, the better. It’s costing the federal government $200,000 a month to care for the herd, and their expenses will get reimbursed before any money is set aside for the city of Dixon or anyone else who may have a claim in the case. Professional Auction Services will be paid via a buyer’s premium of 8 percent to 10 percent of the sales price of each horse.

The sale of the horses and other property is part of a civil forfeiture case against Crundwell, who also faces a federal charge of wire fraud. If convicted of that charge, she could face up to 20 years in prison. Crundwell was released on her own recognizance as the criminal case moves through the court system.



Feds open up ex-Dixon official’s horse trophy room

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DIXON, Ill. (AP) — A trophy room crammed floor to ceiling with prizes from championship horse shows offered the most jaw-dropping glimpse into the life of a former city official in northern Illinois charged with stealing millions in public funds.
U.S. Marshals took journalists on a tour Friday of Rita Crundwell’s immaculate ranch in Dixon, including the dazzling log cabin trophy room that’s part of the horse barn.
“This room speaks to the serious value of the herd,” said U.S. Marshal Darryl McPherson, referring to the 400 prized horses authorities seized and will soon try to sell. “These horses represent some of the best raised and bred in the quarter horse industry.”
Crundwell was arrested in April and is accused of stealing more than $53 million from the city since 1990 while working as its comptroller. She has pleaded not guilty to a charge of wire fraud. Prosecutors say Crundwell siphoned the money into a secret bank account and used it to sustain a luxurious lifestyle as well as her nationally renowned horse-breeding operations.
The trophy room is brimming with horse statuettes, ribbons, belt buckles and other prizes displayed on the floor, shelves, tables, a fireplace mantle and even the ceiling beams. The haul of winnings sits among antiques, saddles and Western-style leather furniture.
One wall of the room is decorated with large prints of Crundwell at championship events with her horses, as well as oil paintings of horses.
There’s a flat-screen TV and a well-stocked bar. The room also has a dining area and a full bathroom.
Elsewhere in the barn is a horse shower that resembles a car-wash bay and an old-fashioned popcorn maker.
Mike Jennings, of the Virginia-based company that will take charge of the horse auction in September, said interested buyers from around the world have already contacted him.
He expects the horses will sell for anywhere from $200 to $200,000 each.
If Crundwell is found guilty, the proceeds will go toward restitution for the city of Dixon.

Horses set for auction

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Hopes are high that some of the horses will go for six figures, especially since the horses up for sale come from a history of champions.

“This case is remarkable, it’s quite frankly unprecedented,” said chief inspector for the US Marshal Services Jason Wojdylo.

It’s the biggest Seizure Wojdylo has ever managed. “We’re dealing with world champions here, were dealing with a lead breeder in the quarter horse industry,” said Wojdylo. “And I think there’s something to be had with these horses.”

Rita Crundwell was arrested for wire fraud and accused of stealing more than 53-million dollars while she worked as comptroller for the city of Dixon. Now, the US Marshal Services is hoping to get some of that money back by selling off 400 horses and 5 properties.

“Our objectives are to maximize the return on all the horses,” said Wojdylo.

The horses are spread across 13 states on 22 farms and people in Dixon want them all sold.

“I would like to see everything go,” said Martha Martinez.

One look at the hundreds of trophies in Crundwell’s trophy room on her Dixon ranch shows how influence she has had in the quarter horse industry.

“The trophies and the trophy room as well as the sheer volume of horses speak to the value of the heard that we have,” said Wojdylo.

The auction is drawing international attention and has Dixon’s mayor hoping for a decent return.

“I’m hoping that we can recover a substantial amount of money,” said Dixon mayor Jim Burke.

Mayor Burke says he found out about what Crundwell is accused of doing five months before her arrest, a secret that kept him up at night.

“I’d wake up thinking about it,” said Burke. “And one time I remember thinking ‘is this really happening?'”

With an auction date now set, and the US Marshal Services hoping to recover as much of the city’s money as they can, Mayor Burke is just left wondering how someone who seemed so trusting could trick such a close nit town to fund her lavish lifestyle.

“What I would wonder about is how anybody could do that, knowing that city money was paying for all that,” said Burke.

The multi-day live auction will be held on September 23rd and 24th at Crundwell’s ranch located at 1556 Red Brick Road in Dixon. There will also be an online sale on September 11th and 12th.




Dates announced for auction of Rita Crundwell’s horses.

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WREX- The U.S. Marshals Service is moving forward with the auction of horses owned by former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell.

A live auction will be held at Crundwell’s farm in Dixon on September 23 and September 24. Performance horses will be auctioned off on September 23, and halter horses will be auctioned on September 24. The farm is located at 1556 Red Brick Road in Dixon.

An online auction will be held on September 11 and September 12. The auction will be held at www.professionalauction.com. Times for both auctions are not yet available.

Interest in the horses is coming from as far as Australia and Europe. According to the auctioneer, 29 world champion horses will be up for auction, with some top breeding stallions garnering over $300,000. However, there will also be horses that will probably sell for just a few hundred dollars.

Crundwell has been accused of stealing over $53 million from the City of Dixon from 1990 to early 2012. She was arrested in April 2012 and charged with one count of wire fraud. Accusers say Crundwell used the money she allegedly stole to fund a lavish lifestyle for herself that included running a nation-wide horse breeding operation. She pled not guilty to wire fraud in May 2012

Rita crundwell RV did not sell.

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DIXON, Ill. (AP) – The U.S. Marshals Service has rejected the only bid for a luxury motor home seized from a former city official in northern Illinois because it was below the minimum $1 million requirement.

The 2009 Elegant Lady series Liberty Coach motor home once belonged to former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell and had a list price of $2.1 million. But it couldn’t muster half that in bidding that ended Wednesday.

Crundwell is accused of stealing more than $53 million in public funds since 1990 and using the cash to fuel an extravagant lifestyle and a nationally renowned horse-breeding operation. She’s pleaded not guilty.

The Marshals Service will try to find another way to sell off the RV.

They’re also planning to sell 400 of Crundwell’s horses