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Crundwell auctions: An empire for sale

Marshals sell former comptroller's personal property piece by piece

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 3:58 p.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Media members toured and photographed the home at 1403 Dutch Road in Dixon once owned by former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell. She leased the home for $18,000 a year to her nephew, who also farmed the land. The home will be sold by U.S. Marshals along with other assets belonging to Crundwell, who last month admitted to stealing nearly $54 million from the city over 21 years.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
A grandfather clock from the home on U.S. Route 52 in rural Dixon had a high bid of $975 as of Friday evening. The bidding ends at 1 p.m. today.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Rita Crundwell's home at 1679 U.S. Route 52 in Dixon was open to the media Friday ahead of today's closing of an online auction for items in the house.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
The home once owned by former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell on U.S. Route 52 has an in-ground pool and hot tub.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Items from Rita Crundwell's personal residence on U.S. Route 52 sit tagged and ready for inspection by members of the media Friday.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
The most recent bid Friday on this baby grand piano was $2,275. Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell used some of the nearly $54 million she stole from city coffers over two decades to fund her lavish lifestyle.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
This chandelier with revolvers and spurs hangs over Crundwell's dining room table. So far, the high bid is $525.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
A seven-drawer desk has a current bid of $400.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Crundwell's pine dining table has a current bid of $600, while the six chairs have a bid of $950.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Saddles hang from the rafters of Crundwell's home on Dutch Road.
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Members of the media were allowed by the U.S. Marshals Service to tour three of Crundwell's Dixon-area properties on Friday.

DIXON – The large house at 1679 U.S. Route 52 is fit for the cowgirl with expensive taste.

There are numerous chairs, ottomans, couches, and even coffee tables covered in leather and multicolored cow hide.

The large master bedroom has a sitting room with leather sofas and chairs, a large TV, a king-size bed with stars and horseshoes carved into the headboard, and a loft office.

The house is built on 6 acres of land that also has a six-stall horse barn, dog kennel, and an in-ground pool and hot tub.

It is a rural palace that Rita Crundwell spared no expense to build.

Video: Click here to see video from a tour on Oct. 29.

However, it came at a very big price.

The former Dixon comptroller admitted last month that she paid for it and other assets with nearly $54 million she stole from the city over 21 years.

Document:See a list of items sold at auction from her Florida property

Now, all signs that Crundwell lived there are gone. The beds have been stripped of their comforters, the book shelf is barren, and closets that once were filled with expensive clothing and shoes are empty.

Large sale tags dangle from every piece of furniture, appliances, lamps, artwork, and other items.

The house will stand totally empty by next week as U.S. Marshals sell the assets from that house, from her Red Brick Road ranch, and from a vacation home in Englewood, Fla., in an online auction that ends at 1 p.m. today.

Document: See a list of items sold at auction from Dixon home

Eventually, those three properties and two others also will be sold in an effort to return some of the stolen money to the city of Dixon.

However, it’s unlikely that the city will see the full amount, said Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector of the Marshals Asset Forfeiture Division.

“Much of the money will not be recoverable,” Wojdylo said. “That’s not unusual in a fraud case. Over 21 years, there were a lot of consumables that the money was spent on. Unfortunately, we will not be able to recover that. Certainly, any asset we can identify that has value, we will pursue.”

Crundwell, 59, pleaded guilty last month to federal wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison at her Feb. 14 sentencing.

She also is charged with 60 counts of theft in Lee County.

The case has been called the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history. 

Wojdylo said this case is unique largely because of where it occurred. 

“Most people would think that something like this would happen in New York or Chicago or a large, metropolitan city,” he said. “I think what’s unique about this case is where it occurred, … a small community of 15,000 people in a concentrated area.”

Over the past several months, marshals have auctioned off many of Crundwell’s assets, including her herd of more than 400 quarter horses, to the tune of about $7.4 million.

That money will be held in escrow until a federal judge issues his final order, Wojdylo said.

Many of the items in the Route 52 home were custom made and picked up on the road during horse shows. Marshals determined that much of the items were purchased from Oklahoma City, Wojdylo said.

His favorite item is a chandelier with revolvers and spurs that hangs over Crundwell’s dining room table.

Two of the most extravagant items are the black baby grand piano in the living room and a wood grandfather clock in the entryway, Wojdylo said. 

Another impressive item is the large, wood desk in the loft office in the master bedroom.

That desk would cost “thousands of dollars in the retail market,” Wojdylo said. 

There are similar items in the Florida home, but Wojdylo said they have been “gently used,” as Crundwell stayed there only a handful of times.

She bought that home in 2009 for $115,000 and spent about a year adding on to it.

Friday, the public got to tour three of Crundwell’s other properties: the Red Brick Road ranch; 43 acres of farmland and a single family home at 1403 Dutch Road; and 81 acres of farmland in Lee County.

Marshals have received unsolicited offers for the properties for $700,000, $450,000, and $540,000, respectively. Counter bids are due by noon Dec. 21.

Tours of those properties resume today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and again on Dec. 14.

Crundwell bought the Dutch Road property for $311,000 in December 2007 and took out mortgages for $240,000 that month and $100,000 in March 2010, according to documents released by the marshals. 

She leased the home for $18,000 a year to her nephew, who also farmed the surrounding land, Wojdylo said.

No offers have been made on the Florida home. Wojdylo said marshals have received an offer on the Route 52 home but said he has not had a chance to evaluate the bid.

Online

See video from a tour of Crundwell's property at 1403 Dutch Road in Dixon.

Go to www.usmarshals.gov/assets/sales/crundwellrealproperties.htm to learn more about the sites, and about the terms and conditions of the sale.

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Inside Look: Crundwell's Property on Dutch Road

Oct. 29 Media Tour of Crundwell's Home at 1679 U.S. Route 52

 

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