Preliminary total from 2-day Crundwell auction: $4.78 million

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DIXON, Ill. — A two-day auction of property owned by former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell raised an estimated $4.78 million, a representative of the U.S. Marshals Service reported late Monday.

According to Lynzey Donahue of the Office of Public Affairs, the preliminary total for the Sunday-Monday sale at Crundwell’s ranch included the sale of horses, horse-related equipment, tack, vehicles and trailers.

The first horse in a 400-horse herd to be auctioned live Sunday sold for $775,000.

The prized stallion, Good I Will Be, was expected to fetch between $250,000 and $1 million, said marshals service chief inspector Jason Wojdylo.

“We certainly got closer to the million, and I think that set the tone,” he said.

The sale drew more than 2,000 people on Sunday.

The 59-year-old Crundwell is accused of directing $53 million in city money to a secret fund over two decades. Officials say the money was used to finance Crundwell’s world-renowned horse-breeding operation, several homes, luxury vehicles, jewelry and the sprawling horse ranch on Dixon’s Red Brick Road. She is free on a recognizance bond but officially remains in federal custody.

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From someone who knew Rita Crundwell

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PRINCETON — Gary and Julia Yaklich of Princeton have been horse enthusiasts for years. They clearly know the horse business, and they also know Rita Crundwell. The Yaklich couple have raised and shown their horses — many times in the same show ring as Crundwell.

Gary and Julia attended the recent auction of Crundwell’s horses and property in Dixon, hoping to buy at least one of Crundwell’s broodmares, however, the couple came home empty-handed. Gary chatted with the Bureau County Republican about his thoughts on the auction, the horses and the Crundwell situation. Following are the BCR’s questions and Gary’s answers:

BCR: How did you know Rita Crundwell?

Yaklich: I’ve probably known Rita since the early ‘80s. When you show horses, you come in contact with the same circle of people. When we showed more, we would show with/against her mostly in Illinois and Wisconsin. We attended her past production sales and visited the ranches over the years.

BCR: Why did you want a Crundwell horse?

Yaklich: Rita was able to develop one of the top broodmare bands in the country. She then either raised or bought studs that crossed well on these mares. She had about 200 mares and over 10 studs, so she would try different crosses to perfect the desired traits or abilities necessary to win at the highest level. Everyone was aware of the crosses that worked the best, so they were the ones most sought after by the horse show industry. This was the opportunity to capitalize on the proven breeding program and carry on what was started in Dixon. On Sunday and Monday, I bid on several of the mares in the sale, however, the bids on the mares I liked shot up past my limit.

BCR: Did you think the prices were fair?

Yaklich: The top sellers were all horses that will have an impact on the quarter horse industry for decades. So, given their future in both the show ring and in breeding programs, the top sellers were definitely worth the money. There were also average horses that would be competitive on the local level, and this was reflected in the prices they brought. There were really only a few “off bred” horses in the sale, and they, of course, were on the low end of the price range. Actually there were horses sold suited for all levels of competition with sales prices to match.

By Questions compiled by Terri Simon and Barb Kromphardt –
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How did she do it? – Rita Crundwell

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From Chicago Magazine.  Full article can be found here
It was time. The three men, in standard-issue FBI suits and ties, arrived

at Dixon City Hall just after nine on the morning of Tuesday, April 17. They chatted breezily with Jim Burke, the mild-mannered, silver-haired mayor, who smiled and nodded from behind a cluttered desk in his office on the second floor. But for the badges tucked into the men’s wallets and the guns holstered on their belts, the gathering might have looked like a few insurance salesmen debating weekend tee times.

As the small talk petered out, however, a chill settled over the room. Burke looked up at the men. “Are we ready?” he asked.

The lead agent, Patrick Garry, nodded. “Yes. Let’s bring her in.”

Burke reached for the phone and punched in the number for the comptroller. “Rita, would you mind stepping into my office for a minute?”

“Sure,” Rita Crundwell answered brightly.

For five long months—ever since Dixon’s city clerk, Kathe Swanson, had stumbled upon a curious bank statement from an even more curious bank account—Burke had been helping the feds unravel an embezzlement scheme so vast and so brazen it seemed almost inconceivable. Tens of millions of dollars had been siphoned from the tiny rural city’s operating budget. The money was being dumped into a mysterious account and allegedly spent on everything but city business: jewelry, fancy clothes, a custom motor coach, boats, property in Florida, luxury cars, hundreds of the finest horses this side of Amarillo. And that was only what the feds had found in their cursory first look at the city’s cooked books.

Most stunning of all was the identity of the person suspected of masterminding the scheme: Rita Crundwell, a woman whose parents were the kind of humble, hardworking community pillars upon which Dixon’s reputation was built, a woman who had been the town’s comptroller for more than three decades, as trusted and efficient as a church tithe collector.

It was Burke who had taken the dubious bank statement to the FBI office in Rockford back in October 2011. Agents instructed him to hold his tongue while they investigated. As the months passed, he woke often in the night. Was this really happening?

The mayor’s thoughts turned to Crundwell’s hobby. Everyone in town knew that Crundwell, 59, who is divorced and has no children, owned and showed horses. The local paper reported on various championships she won, honors that bestowed a measure of pride on the city.

But very few in Dixon had the faintest idea of the operation Crundwell was running or of the magnitude of the double life she was leading. By day, she was a modest municipal worker with a high-school education; by night, she was a diamond-bedazzled high roller, the doyenne of a world that was a million miles in glamour and several million dollars in wealth from the cornfields and cattle farms of Illinois.

Week after week, Burke would pass Crundwell in the upstairs offices—a warren of cubicles with pile carpeting and cheap wood paneling—and pretend that nothing was wrong, trading “good mornings” with the woman he’d been told was robbing the city blind and smiling as she did. Week after week, Swanson, the city clerk who had flagged the telltale bank statement, swallowed her disgust as she watched the coworker she had once considered a friend breezing around the building.

Now the day of reckoning was at hand.

“Hi,” Crundwell chirped, sticking her head through the door.

“Morning,” Burke said. “Would you mind coming in?”

Garry wasted no time. “I’m with the FBI,” he said, displaying his badge. “We’d like to ask you some questions.”

From his desk, Burke studied Crundwell. If she has an ounce of shame, he thought, it will show on her face. When he saw her expression, the unwavering calm smile, he was stunned. “I was looking right at her,” Burke recalls. “And the look on her face never changed. Absolutely never changed.”

Continued at

From Chicago Magazine.  Full article can be found here

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.