Not Guilty Plea

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Rita Crundwell, the high-profile Quarter Horse breeder accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the coffers of a small Illinois town, has pleaded not guilty to the charge against her.

Crundwell owns RC Quarter Horses LLC and operates the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wis., and another horse farm in Dixon, Ill. She has been a leading Quarter Horse breeder having earned Leading Breeder Award honors at eight American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Shows. In connection with the case, Crundwell’s 311 horses are now in the care of the U.S. Marshals Service.

In April Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested Crundwell and charged her with one count of wire fraud after a federal grand jury in Illinois returned an initial indictment accusing Crundwell of misappropriating $30 million in funds from the town of Dixon, where she had served as city comptroller since the 1980s. Further investigation resulted in an expanded indictment accusing Crundwell of allegedly misappropriating a total of more than $53 million from Dixon over more than 20 years.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said that on May 7 Crundwell appeared in U.S. District Court in Rockford, Ill., where she pleaded not guilty to the wire fraud charge.

Crundwell’s attorney Paul Graziano, assistant defender for the Federal Defender Program, declined comment on the case.

While the case is pending, Crundwell remains free on bail.

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