Auction of Horses From Indicted City Comptroller Earns Almost $5 Million

PHOTO: An auction of horses and other items belonging to Rita Crundwell, the indicted former comptroller of Dixon, Ill., earned nearly $5 million.

An auction of horses that belonged to an Illinois city comptroller indicted for stealing more than $53 million yielded $4.8 million this week, with millions in seized assets that have not been liquidated, says the U.S. Marshals Service.

Rita Crundwell, 59, comptroller of Dixon, Ill., is accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $53 million in city funds to support a "lavish lifestyle," including a large farm with over 150 horses, over $339,000 in jewelry, and numerous vehicles.

In this May 7, 2012 file photo, Rita Crundwell, former comptroller for Dixon, Ill., leaves federal court in Rockford, Ill. (Image credit: Robert Ray/AP Photo)

Crundwell was arrested in April and indicted in May by the U.S. Attorney's Office for one count of wire fraud after allegedly helping herself to public funds since 1990.

At the time of her arrest, FBI agents used seizure warrants at Crundwell's home, office, and her champion horse farm in Beloit, Wis., as well as another farm in Dixon, and seized contents of two bank accounts she controlled.

As the town's comptroller since the early 1980s, Crundwell earned an annual salary of $80,000, according to the complaint filed in April in the Northern District Court of Illinois.

Her attorney, Paul Gaziano of the Federal Defender Program, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The U.S. District Court Judge of Rockford, Ill., had ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to seize, manage and liquidate Crundwell's assets and to deposit the funds into an escrow account. The U.S. Marshals will use some of the funds for their expenses, including $1.5 million from caring for the horses. Other expenses include $400,000 that Crundwell still owed on a luxury motor home, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The funds are expected to be available to the city provided the government proves the allegations against Crundwell.

There have been three auctions this month that earned $7.2 million and Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service asset forfeiture division, expects millions in assets have yet to be sold.

"We have lot more in the way of inventory," Wojdylo said. "We're still identifying and cataloging inventory to determine what will be sold."

The most expensive horse from the live auction, a three-time quarter-horse world champion called "Good I Will Be" sold to a Canadian for $775,000. Also sold during the live auction were frozen horse semen for $98,500 and tack and equipment for $892,945. Earlier this month, an online auction sold 80 horses for $1.6 million. On Tuesday, Crundwell's luxury motor home sold for $800,000.

Tim Jennings, co-owner of Professional Auction Services Inc., which managed the live auction of 319 horses on Sunday and Monday, said Crundwell would have probably never let go of many of the horses sold.

"These bloodlines will be dispersed in the industry and will have an impact for quite some time," he said.

Jennings said he was surprised by the show of interest in the auction from around the world, from people in Australia, Brazil, Europe. Part of the attention was driven by the Crundwell's horses, which have made her "tremendously successful" in the quarter-horse world. She is an eight-time leading exhibitor at the American Quarter Horse world championship show.

However, Jennings said the allegations against Crundwell brought a large number of the 4,000 auction attendees.

"This was all over the news," he said. "It had to have helped."

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