Artwork eyed for auction, Convicted ex-Dixon comptroller’s trophies- Rita Crundwell

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Most of former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s big-ticket possessions are long gone. The hundreds of championship horses, the lavish houses, custom jewelry collection, a motor home fit for a rock star — they’ve all been sold off as part of a unique effort to pay off Crundwell’s staggering $54 million judgment for looting the town’s coffers over more than two decades.

Now, with Crundwell serving a 191/2 -year prison sentence and her tab still north of $44 million, federal prosecutors want to seize a decidedly lower-rent collection of items from her former ranch in Beloit, Wis., where she used stolen funds to amass not only a world-class horse breeding business but also a laundry list of knickknacks, some on the tacky side. There’s framed artwork depicting a horse drinking beer, a chair made of horseshoes and a leather tissue box embroidered with Crundwell’s initials. There are monogrammed ashtrays, wagon wheels, horse sculptures and decorative pillows. Even a photo described as “Rita & Dogs” must go, the feds say. The most symbolic, though, of Crundwell’s seemingly insatiable greed might be her collection of more than 700 horse breeding and competition trophies that once littered her Meri-J Ranch.

Longtime Dixon Mayor Jim Burke said Friday that most of the remaining assets are “junk” that will probably wind up in a rummage sale but that the trophies go to heart of Crundwell’s crimes. Rather than trying to sell them, he’s going to propose that the Dixon City Council formally ask for the awards to be returned to the city, saying they could someday be used in a “teaching way” about the dangers of greed. “That was what it was all about,” Burke told the Tribune by telephone. “It wasn’t about horses, it was about trophies.”

Crundwell, who started working for the city’s Finance Department in 1970, pleaded guilty in 2012 to funneling money from various city accounts into a secret account she controlled. The thefts began in 1990 and grew bolder over time, peaking at $5.8 million in 2008 alone, according to her plea agreement. Authorities have called her massive theft perhaps the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history. In selling off many of Crundwell’s most valuable assets through a series of auctions, the U.S. Marshals Service has already recouped about $9 million for the city after expenses, court records show. The most prized of the 400 or so horses auctioned off in 2012 was Good I Will Be, a world-champion stallion that was purchased for $775,000 by a Canadian woman who had recently won a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot. About a year later, though, the horse was euthanized after surgery at Texas A&M University Veterinary Hospital. Dixon received another windfall of $40 million in 2013 when it settled a lawsuit against its auditors and bank for failing to catch Crundwell’s wrongdoing. Just less than $30 million ended up in city coffers after legal fees. Later that year, several hundred of the city’s 16,000 residents turned out for a meeting to offer opinions on how the money should be allocated. While some advocated cash payouts to residents, most wanted the city to be cautious with the money, the mayor said. Burke said the city ultimately decided to use more than $20 million to boost reserves and pay down debt that had accumulated, largely because of Crundwell’s fraud. There have also been investments in long-term capital improvement projects. The city, best known as the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan, recently completed a $6 million downtown streetscape project funded by the settlement money, Burke said.


Another project is in the works to connect two vital walking paths along the Rock River. Burke, who is stepping down in April after 16 years as mayor, realizes the city has been lucky to recoup so much of the losses, especially considering victims in many fraud cases never see a dime of their money returned. “We’ve been very prudent and reinvested in the city,” he said, “and we’re sitting in pretty darn good shape.” U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard has yet to rule on the government request to seize Crundwell’s trophies and other items found at the ranch. Once they are dealt with, Burke said, there are still a few big-ticket items left that could mean even more restitution to the city, including the sale of Crundwell’s interest in two Dixon-area farms that total about 325 acres.



Rita crundwell pleads guilty

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November 14, 2012 (ROCKFORD) — Her schemes to defraud the City of Dixon went on for more than 20-years. Rita Crundwell pleads guilty to federal charges Wednesday morning. Giving up her rights to a fair trial.

Rita Crundwell, 59 walked out of federal courts. She was surrounded by T.V. news cameras and reporters, but silent as questions are shouted at her.

All for a crime, prosectuors say, should have never been allowed to happen in the first place.

“For over a period of more than 21-years, which is certaintly at least as far as I know is the largest theft of public funds in Illinois history,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro.

The comptroller of Dixon admits she took more than 50-million dollars from taxpayers, and using it to support her lavish lifestyle and horse breeding operation.

“Her actions were sophisticated. It was a good scheme, but at the same time, they weren’t so sophisticated that now this is my opinion, a little bit better oversight to some of this could have been brought to our attention sooner,” said Acting Special F.B.I agent William Monroe.

U.S Marshals worked for several months to seize and to liquidate all of her assets, which includes including 400 horses.

They recovered around $7.4 million dollars through on site and online auctioning of her assets.

“I like to report to date that we have sold all those horses in a large quanity of tact and equipment; as well as 11 vehicles, which includes a customized luxurious motor home,” said U.S. Marshal Darryl McPherson.

But more assets such as real estate property and jewerly still needs to be auctioned off.

Shapiro hopes this crime will serve as an example for public officials that when it comes to public money there needs to be trust and verification.

“But it should serve as a lesson to public officials in other cities small and large and I say this recognizing its significance for the town of Dixon,” said Shapiro.

Thousands pour in for Crundwell Auction

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A good article found at

Thousands came out for Day 1 of the horse auction at the Rita Crundwell ranch in Dixon, IL.

Visitors came from California, Arizona, Texas, and even Australia and British Columbia for today’s auction – all hoping to head home with one of the 320 prized horses from Rita Crundwell’s ranch.

“You don’t run into this – it’s once in a lifetime,” says Don Miller, from Elgin, IL. “Under the circumstances of the sale, and the quality of the horses – they are absolutely the best in the world.”

Locals were in attendance as well, waiting to see how much some of the horses would sell.

“I think they are going to go for a lot of money,” says Jacqueline Full. “I’m from Dixon and my money’s involved in it too.”

While there are more than 300 horses up for sale, all eyes were on horse number one. “Good I Will Be” is the crown jewel of Rita Crundwell’s collection.

The horse sold for $775,000 to Sandra Morgan, a horse show person from Langley, British Columbia. Her agent says it was a steal grabbing a horse like this.

“You don’t usually find this everyday,” says Stephen Stephens. “To have one person’s life making here on display and the same individual ‘Good I Will Be.’ The opportunity and the road she has already paved for this horse was just somebody’s great benefit to be able to purchase him.”

“Good I Will Be” will travel to Oklahoma City for the World Show in November. Then he’ll head to his final destination, Weatherfield, Texas, where he will be used as a breeder horse.

For the past five months, the horses have been cared for by U.S. Marshals.

“Certainly never before in my career here have I managed something like this as large as this is,” says Jason Wojdylo, Chief Inspector for the U.S. Marshals. “It’s been unprecedented.”

Maintenance fees were piling up, topping for than $1.3 million for the Marshals to care for the horses. After discussions with Rita Crundwell, it was ordered that the horses be sold while still maintaining top value.

“She has a lot of world champion horses,” says Jennifer Fecht, who cared for the horses while working for Crundwell. “It takes all day to feed and clean their stalls.”

After this auction, marshals will start selling furniture, real estate and other personal property of Crundwell’s.

If Crundwell is found innocent, she will reap all profits from the auction.

Big Sale in dixon for Crundwell Horses

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Dixon’s Big Sale for Crundwell Horses


DIXON, Ill. — Despite a scarce hay crop and higher feed prices, the 400 horses that will be sold in two separate auctions this month are expected to bring top dollar.

“There are not very many world champions usually available for sale at any given time. There are enough people in our industry to really want that type of horse,” said Mike Jennings, co-owner, along with his brother Tim, of Professional Auction Services of Round Hill, Va.

That is good news for those who are hoping to collect reimbursement from the sale of the property belonging to Rita Crundwell, former comptroller for Dixon in Lee County.

In May, Crundwell pleaded not guilty to a single count of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege that Crundwell stole some $53 million since 1990 in her position as the city’s comptroller.

Prosecutors say that millions of those allegedly stolen funds went toward building up her horse business, RC Quarter Horses LLC. Crundwell has produced more than 50 world champions in shows sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association.

Oklahoma quarter horse champion pleads not guilty to misappropriating $53M from Illinois city

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)— An Illinois woman well known in the local quarter horse circuit faces charges that she supported her championship program with embezzled money.

Rita Crundwell, who won the last eight top titles at the American Quarter Horse Association’s annual championship in Oklahoma City, has pleaded not guilty to misappropriating more than $53 million from the city of Dixon, Ill., where she worked as comptroller.

Eighty high-value quarter horses were sold at an online auction earlier this week, fetching more than $1.6 million. A live auction Sept. 23-24 at Crundwell’s ranch in Dixon will help the U.S. Marshals Service to liquidate the remaining of Crundwell’s 300-plus horses.

Crundwell was arrested by FBI agents in April, accused of siphoning public funds into a secret bank account opened in 1990 to help support her lavish lifestyle, including her successful horse breeding operation.

Federal prosecutors contend she spent the funds on jewelry and cars, including a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster, and on horses.

Crundwell won 69 world championships as an owner and 47 as an exhibitor. She also won the Oklahoma City Leading Owner Award — presented to the owner who earns the most points overall at the annual championship show — for the last eight years straight, according to American Quarter Horse Association results.

“Rita was well known because she had been successful for an extended amount of time,” said Jim Bret Campbell, the Quarter Horse Association’s senior director of marketing and public relations.

“It is a very viable way of life and it’s a way of life many people enjoy, but just because you have one individual who falls outside of that doesn’t meant that the whole industry is painted with the same brush,” he told The Oklahoman (

Quarter horses are prized for being able to run short straightaways faster than any other. In the halter class, in which Crundwell enjoyed her success, prizes are awarded based on breed ideals and the look and structure of the animal.

Campbell said a championship purse can be worth $15,000 to $20,000.

Wayne Halverson, who sells and trains quarter horses at his ranch between Edmond and Guthrie, said Crundwell was well known for her elaborate setup at competitions across the country.

“You’ll find a lot of people have either a nice motor home or a nice trailer, but she had a nice everything — a motor home, a nice truck and trailer, another trailer that would haul her clothes and another for hauling equipment. She was probably a little more extravagant than most.”

He said the quarter horse industry can be a lucrative one for successful breeders and owners, but like any business, it takes careful planning and budgeting to sustain. He believes the glory of her success may have pushed Crundwell to expand her operation beyond its means.

“It was kind of like people start playing golf and pretty soon they’re playing golf more days per week, pretty soon it kind of overtakes their time,” he said. “She just really enjoyed showing and enjoyed the horses; I don’t think it was for financial gain.”

Court documents indicate Crundwell took 12 weeks of unpaid vacation from her city hall job in 2011.

Crundwell has agreed to allow her horses to be auctioned while the case against her is pending, said Lynzey Donahue, spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Proceeds raised at the two auctions will be put into an escrow account until the conclusion of the case, Donahue said.

“With assets like these that quickly depreciate, it’s in our best interest to forfeit them and get them sold because it’s costing us about $200,000 a month to maintain the horses,” she said.

In addition to horses, about 250 bridles, bits and reins and 17 saddle pads, blankets and saddle covers will be included in the live auction later this month.

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.

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 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

Auction set for crundwell horses

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The U.S. Marshals Service hires a firm, to start selling off Rita Crundwell’s horses.

The contract goes to Professional Auction Services, Inc. out of Round Hill, Virginia. The contract runs from August 1st to September 30th. Auctioneers will sell horses and related equipment at Crundwell’s Red Brick Road farm in Dixon, and online. Right now, it looks like the auction will begin sometime in the middle of September.

Rita Crundwell is the City of Dixon’s former Comptroller. She’s accused of stealing more than $53 million from the City to fund her horse farm operation. A judge ordered the sale of more than 400 horses and other assets Crundwell had. Some of the money made will go back to the City of Dixon.

Crundwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Judge allows sale of Crundwell horses

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ROCKFORD – As lawyers convened behind closed doors Friday, Rita Crundwell stared straight ahead as she waited for a decision on whether her 401 prime quarter horses would be sold before her case is resolved.

While the former Dixon comptroller and her attorneys already had agreed to the sale, there was a brief hold-up Friday as the federal prosecutors consulted with two attorneys representing some of the companies that have been taking care of the horses since Crundwell’s arrest.

The attorneys for the companies – Percott Company of Beloit, Wis., and a horse company and two veterinarians from Texas – want “assurances” that they would have chance to recoup some of their costs from sale proceeds.

Crundwell purchased the horses, along with other properties and assets, with city funds, according to federal prosecutors.

Crundwell, 59, is charged with one count of federal wire fraud as part of a scheme to misappropriate more than $53 million since 1990, according to prosecutors.

Crundwell will be back in court July 23 in both her civil and criminal case.

During a 30-minute hearing Friday, Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney gave the U.S. Marshals Service the go-ahead to sell the horses, as well as 21 embryos, 13 saddles, and frozen stallion semen from eight horses.

Read the order allowing the sale.
Rita Crundwell Horse Order 12-cv-50153

A similar request to sell five of Crundwell’s properties and a $2.1 luxury motor home was granted late last month.

Marshals have been caring for the horses, properties and other assets seized from Crundwell after her April 17 arrest at City Hall.

Marshals did not return calls or emails seeking comment Friday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pedersen told Mahoney that selling the horses now will “be in the best interest of all parties involved.”

In a motion filed Thursday, Pedersen wrote that maintenance costs are “burdensome,” especially because some of the mares are pregnant or recently gave birth.

Prolonging the sale may also devalue the horses, Pedersen said.

Pedersen told Mahoney that it will take 60 to 90 days for marshals to bid out contracts to companies to conduct the sales.

All proceeds, minus costs incurred by the Marshals Service in setting up the sale, will be held in an escrow account managed by marshals until the case is resolved, Pedersen said.

Percott and Texas horse breeders Brock and Kristi Allen of Allen Equine, and veterinarians A. Barry Wood and Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, filed motions in late May to intervene in the civil suit.

In the motions, attorneys wrote that they have incurred substantial costs in caring for the horses, which have resulted in a lien of more than $150,000.

The attorneys argued that in the event the horses would be sold, they intend to make a claim from the proceeds to recover those costs.

Crundwell’s federal defender, Paul Gaziano, told Mahoney that he still is going over 17,000 pages of discovery provided by prosecutors, 6,000 of which were provided within the past month.

Mahoney told Gaziano to file any pretrial motions before Crundwell’s next court date.

After Friday’s hearing, Crundwell and her second attorney, Kristin Carpenter, walked briskly past a throng of reporters and into a small black car; a black trash bag had been placed over the license plate.