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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.