Auction dates have been set for more than 400 quarter horses bred by alleged fraudster Rita Crundwell, amid speculation some of the animals could fetch six figures.
Crundwell, 59, stands accused of siphoning off more than $US53 million from the coffers of Dixon, Illinois, over a 22-year period while she served as the city’s financial controller.
Federal authorities allege Crundwell used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle and her extensive quarter horse operation.
Civil action against Crundwell is running alongside the criminal prosecution in a bid to recover some of the money.
The US Marshals Service seized more than 400 quarter horses, as well as property and vehicles, including a lavish motor home.
The service engaged Professional Auction Service, of Round Hill, Virginia, to sell the horses, which are costing federal authorities $US200,000 a month to maintain. The bill for the animals’ care to date has topped $US500,000.
An online auction will be held September 11 and 12, with a live auction on September 23 and 24 at Crundwell’s horse farm, four miles southeast of Dixon, where 271 of the animals are located.
The auction will include 29 champion quarter horses.
Interest in the horses has come from as far afield as Australia and Europe, with some predicting prices approaching $US300,000.
An online auction is being held for some of the animals because they are located at 22 farms across 13 states.
Last Friday, federal authorities took reporters for a look on Crundwell’s farm, and showed them the lavish trophy room brimming with the spoils of victory.
“This room speaks to the serious value of the herd,” US Marshal Darryl McPherson, of the Northern District of Illinois, said. “These horses represent some of the best raised and bred in the quarter horse industry,” he told reporters.
Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector of the Asset Forfeiture Division with the US Marshals Service, spoke of the effort to recoup some of the money owed to the city of Dixon.
“Our job is to advocate for victims of crime and we always have a conscientious effort to try to generate the greatest return for any asset that we seize,” he said.
The Marshals Service has already unsuccessfully tried to sell Crundwell’s luxury motor home, valued at $US2.1 million in 2009.
It said it would accept tenders of more than $US1 million. Just one tender was received, and it was below the required mark.
“We put it out there to the target-rich audience, but it didn’t sell,” Wojdylo said.
Crundwell, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of wire fraud, could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Despite her denial, a judge authorized federal authorities to sell some of her assets, including the horses, ranch, and vehicles.
To date, the evidence in the case amounts to some 18,000 pages.
The sale of Crundwell’s ranch will be organised following the sale of her horses.
Its main barn houses 38 stables, a laboratory, office, kitchen, air-conditioned laundry room and at least one restroom with granite counter tops.
More auction information: http://www.professionalauction.com/12RC.htm