Well over a half-million dollars has been spent by federal workers so
far, taking care of 400 horses the former comptroller is accused
of buying with money she stole from taxpayers. Rita Crundwell, 59,
is accused by federal authorities of diverting $53 million in city
money into a personal account over two decades, using it to bankroll a
lavish lifestyle. She has pleaded innocent since her April arrest but is
cooperating with authorities’ efforts to turn her horses and some
personal belongings into cash.
After the U.S. Marshals Service is
reimbursed for the $200,000 it is costing monthly to care for the
Crundwell herd, the remaining money will be turned over to the city of
Dixon, which has a population of about 6,000.
Mike Jennings, one
of two brothers who own Virginia-based Professional Auction Services
Inc., answered questions Friday about his company’s plans to hold
several September auctions — both live and online — to convert the
quarterhorses into cash.
A self-described lifelong horseman,
Jennings was asked whether he has known of any other personally owned
herds of quarterhorses that are 400 strong.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “It’s an unusual circumstance in the industry.”
Marshal Darryl McPherson said workers from his office spent seven weeks
inventorying all 400 horses, which are kept at 22 farms in 13 states.
The largest holding, however, is at Crundwell’s ranch on Red Brick Road
in Dixon, where workers from the Marshals Service are caring for 271
Though Crundwell has been portrayed as a big spender,
shelling out $1.575 million on a luxury motor home and hundreds of
thousands of dollars in jewelry, Jennings said her ranch is not over the
“I expected something a little fancier,” he said, adding that he has seen horse stables with crystal chandeliers.
main barn houses 38 stables, a laboratory, office, kitchen,
air-conditioned laundry room and at least one restroom with granite
countertops. There is a horse shower that resembles a car-wash bay and
an old-fashioned popcorn maker, which, on Friday, had a blue-eyed
Australian shepherd resting at its base.
Crundwell had at least
two of the dogs, including a full-sized shepherd and a miniature one.
The animals clearly are accustomed to the federal workers being at the
ranch, because the smaller dog continually approached two of the men,
shoving its nose into their hands.
The trophy room that is
connected to the barn tells the tale of Crundwell’s success with an
industry often referred to as “a rich-man’s hobby.”
It would take
half a day to count the trophies, ribbons and belt-buckle prizes that
are crammed onto shelves and line the floor among antiques and leather
furniture — even standing in rows on the overhead wood beams.
open-concept space has a brick fireplace and full-sized kitchen. One
wall is decorated in oversized prints of Crundwell in the winner’s
circle with some of her horses, as well as two oil paintings of horses.
a mounted flat-screen TV is a bar, piled with bottles of alcohol.
Saddles hang from the beams or rest on Western-themed furniture. The
room also contains a small dining area and a full bathroom.
room speaks to the serious value of the herd,” McPherson said, noting
the hundreds of trophies and awards reflect the quality of stock that
will be available at auction.
Chief Inspector Jason Wojdylo, of
the asset forfeiture division of the U.S. Marshals Service, said the
ranch, along with other Crundwell-owned properties, will be sold after
her living assets have been liquidated.
His office has been
directly responsible for the care of the herd, which has seen the
arrival of 82 foals since April. Another eight horses have died.
government’s role in caring for so many animals, including at least 29
world champions, was described Friday as “unprecedented.”
said he intends to send a team from Virginia to “supplement the care”
and “put the horses through the beauty shop.” He said the animals have
been getting “excellent” care from the government, and he expects
several of them, including the popular stallion, Good I Will Be, to
fetch $300,000 or more each.
“We expect bidding to be active,” he said, adding that 13 of Crundwell’s custom-made saddles also will be sold at auction.
“Our job is to advocate for the victims of crimes,” Wojdylo said. “We want the greatest return on assets.”
Click here to see more from the Quad-City Times including video from the August 3 press conference as well as video from the farm.
This is so disturbing to me for our industry. I am an amateur exhibitor that trains my own horses & we are very competitive. In looking at this it makes me sad. I would so greatly appreciate to be able to be blessed enough to win a World Championship & to see all those trophies of World & Congress wins crammed onto shelves & sitting on the floor because there are so many that there is no room for more is just so unbelievably sad to me. Not only is it sad for Rita to get so caught up in nothing but winning - it is sad that our industry only sees those with money & allows them to win like this. Where is the equality for those of us who truly work hard for our rewards. AQHA - I hope your listening.