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Lavish lifestyle on display at Dixon digs

Former comptroller’s one-of-a-kind belongings soon to be sold at auction

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 11:24 a.m. CDT

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DIXON – A weathered wooden sideboard with red accents and antler-style handles welcomes visitors as they walk into the front door of Rita Crundwell’s former home southeast of Dixon.

This is only the beginning of the custom-made, western-style furnishings inside the house at 1679 U.S. Route 52 that soon will be sold in a public auction.

The U.S. Marshals Service provided a media tour Monday at the 6.1-acre gated property that features the three-level home, a horse barn with living quarters, an in-ground swimming pool, and a dog kennel equipped with heating and air conditioning. The tour was designed to help advertise the sale of the property and items seized by the marshals.

Click here to tour the home

In May, federal prosecutors indicted the 59-year-old former Dixon comptroller on a charge of wire fraud in connection with what prosecutors say was the misappropriation of $53 million in city funds since 1990. She also is charged in Lee County with 60 counts of theft.

A single receipt from Crundwell’s Englewood, Fla., home showed a purchase of $42,000 in furnishings. In total, items appraised for more than $100,000.

Jason Wodjyo, chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals assets forfeiture division, said the biggest challenge in selling the Dixon home will be appraising the value of items that, he estimated, each could range from $1,000 to $10,000 or more.

“We’ve learned most of these items are one-time products she purchased at horse shows,” Wodjyo said, standing in front of a wooden chair with cowhide cushions. “I couldn’t begin to tell you how much each costs. This here, like everything else here, is real cowhide.”

Wodjyo said he expects to host a public auction at the Route 52 home in about 30 to 45 days, after those items are appraised. Complying with Environmental Protection Agency regulations in the disposal of 2,100 tons of horse manure have delayed the auction, Wodjyo said.

The master bedroom, which nearly doubles the size of the home, features a master bathroom fit with a Jacuzzi, a walk-in closet, and a second-floor office.

The king-size, wooden-frame bed has actual horseshoes in the footboard. A 63-inch TV stands just beyond the foot of the bed.

A horseshoe also was built into the floor of the shower in the master bathroom.

Furnishings in the office include a brown cowhide-and-suede high-back chair and a secretary’s desk on a wrought-iron stand. Even a magazine rack was made of wood with leather trimming and star cutouts.

Each of three bedrooms and the living room house a big-screen TV. A stereo sound system is built into the ceiling and walls.

A Kurzweil/Young Chang grand piano and a built-in, barely used gas fireplace highlight the living room area.

Another fireplace serves both the dining room area, where Crundwell displayed trophies, and her master bedroom. 

The kitchen hosts a Viking professional stove valued at close to $5,000 and a large, built-in refrigerator with digital temperature readings.

Continuing the western-theme décor, curtain rods around the home are made with spurs at each end, and cacti plants grow in ceramic pots shaped like cowboy boots.

The auction of Crundwell’s personal items will take place in Dixon, Wodjyo said. This reduces shipping and moving costs, and provides a local boost.

“One of my objectives all along has been to infuse some economic recovery to the area,” Wodjyo said. “When we had the horse auction, there were about 4,000 people in the area. We’re hoping this auction will bring the same interest.”

So far, online and live auctions of her 400 horses, vehicles and other items have raised about $6.4 million.

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