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DIXON – City and law enforcement officials met Tuesday with federal agents to make a “preliminary plan” in the event that a federal judge allows the sale of former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell’s nearly 400 horses, according to Lee County Sheriff John Varga.
No such order or motion had been filed as of late Tuesday.
“Obviously, no one can do anything without a court order,” Varga told Sauk Valley Media. “[The feds] wanted to give us a heads-up on what to expect.”
However, the U.S. Marshals Service, which was given the go-ahead last week in federal court to sell some of Crundwell’s assets, now said they will “delay” the sale of two of her properties until they receive further order from the court in regard to the horses.
Crundwell, 59, is charged with wire fraud. Prosecutors say she misappropriated more than $53 million in taxpayer money over two decades to pay for her horse operations and her “lavish lifestyle.”
According to court documents, Crundwell told federal agents that she used some city money to buy and maintain her horses.
Following her April 17 arrest, the U.S. Marshals Service took over five of Crundwell’s properties, which include her Brick Road home and horse ranch in Dixon, along with the horses scattered across the country.
On May 30, Judge Philip G. Reinhard granted an agreed motion between federal prosecutors and Crundwell to sell the properties and a $2.1 million 2009 Liberty Coach motor home.
Marshals Service spokeswoman Lynzey Donahue said in an email Tuesday that the sale of two of Crundwell’s Dixon properties which house multiple horses will be delayed, “as the Marshals Service has received no authority at this point to sell any of the approximately 400 horses believed to be owned by Crundwell.”
According to court documents, Crundwell has about 241 horses in Dixon.
Donahue and U.S. Attorney spokesman Randall Samborn have declined to say when or if a motion to sell the horses will be filed in federal court.
Varga, along with Dixon Mayor Jim Burke and Police Chief Danny Langloss, met with federal agents Tuesday to discuss a possible sale if prosecutors seek to seize the horses prior to a conviction.
Langloss did not want to comment on the meeting, and Burke could not be reached for comment.
Federal officials requested the meeting to talk about the logistics of a large public auction if a judge orders the horses to be sold, Varga said.
Varga said his department, with help from Dixon Police, would be in charge of traffic and crowd control, while marshals handle the auction.
Varga said there was no talk of when a sale could happen or how much the horses may sell for.
Marshals are using existing farm labor and have hired a contractor to manage the care of the horses, Donahue said Tuesday.
Marshals also are evaluating business operations to “ensure the livestock is maintained in the same or better condition as when they took custody and that the care of the animals meets industry practices,” Donahue said