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Feds file motion to sell Crundwell horses

One of Rita Crundwell's horses is seen at her stables just outside of Dixon. Federal 
prosecutors today asked the court to allow them to sell about 400 of her horses.
One of Rita Crundwell's horses is seen at her stables just outside of Dixon. Federal prosecutors today asked the court to allow them to sell about 400 of her horses.

DIXON – Costs associated with maintaining more than 400 horses owned by former city Comptroller Rita A. Crundwell are “burdensome” to the federal agency tasked with their care,  federal prosecutors say.

The Dixon woman does not have the means to care for them herself, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pedersen wrote in a motion requesting permission to sell the horses and other items.

Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney, who oversees the civil case, has not yet ruled on the motion.

Crundwell 59, is charged with wire fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s office says she misappropriated more than $53 million in city funds over two decades, using some of it to pay for her horse operations and her “lavish lifestyle.”

Crundwell will be in court today for her criminal case.

In an amended complaint filed Thursday, prosecutors say they have identified 401 horses, 21 embryos, 13 saddles, and frozen stallion semen from eight horses that they believe Crundwell bought with city funds.

Prosecutors have said they intend to sell the horses and other assets and give the money back to the city.

In his motion to sell the horses, Pedersen wrote that maintenance costs are “burdensome,” especially because some of the mares are pregnant or recently gave birth.

Most of Crundwell’s assets have been seized and she and any associates have been barred from selling or doing anything to devalue them.

Although she and her attorneys agree to the sale, Crundwell is not admitting guilt, Pedersen wrote.

On May 30, Judge Philip G. Reinhard, who oversees the criminal case, granted an agreed-upon motion between federal prosecutors and Crundwell to sell five of her properties and a $2.1 million luxury motor home.

Marshals have said that two of Crundwell’s Dixon properties will not be sold immediately because they house many horses.

Marshals met last week with Dixon Mayor Jim Burke, Lee County Sheriff John Varga, and Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss about the logistics of a possible horse sale in Dixon.

Burke told Sauk Valley Media that the sale, which likely would be in late July or August, would include the horses boarded in Dixon and at a ranch in Beloit, Wis.

“It’s not going to be practical to bring all those horses” to Dixon from their different locations across the country, Burke said.

The Marshals Service will not respond to questions until the judge has ruled on the motion, spokeswoman Lynzey Donahue said in an email.

Pedersen wrote in his motion that because of the variety and volume of Crundwell’s properties, more than one sale may be necessary. Proceeds, minus costs incurred by the Marshals, will be put in an escrow account until the case is resolved.

Earlier this month, Mahoney granted a motion to intervene in the suit, filed by Percott Co., which boards 60 of Crundwell’s prime quarter horses at the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit.

In the motion, the company says it has incurred “substantial ongoing costs and expense” caring for the horses, which has resulted in a lien of more than $150,000.

Mahoney granted a similar motion to intervene filed by Texas horse breeders Brock and Kristi Allen of Allen Equine, and veterinarians A. Barry Wood and Hartman Equine Reproduction Center.

They care for 21 of Crundwell’s horses in Texas.

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