*Reprinted courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times
More than 2,000 bidders gathered Sunday afternoon at ex-Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s ranch as officials sold off 146 of her prized horses at an auction.
Bidding continues Monday for the remaining 173 horses.
“We’re really happy with the turnout,” marshals spokesperson Lynzey Donahue said. “Any time you’re dealing with live items that can depreciate quickly, it’s best to get them sold off as soon as possible.”
Marshals have overseen Crundwell’s herd of more than 400 horses since May, accruing an estimated $1.354 million in costs through August. Some horses have died and others were sold through the Internet.
In May, federal prosecutors indicted Crundwell on one count of wire fraud stemming from a scheme in which she allegedly misappropriated more than $53 million in city funds since 1990. The 59-year-old Dixon woman, who has since pleaded not guilty, agreed to sell the horses.
Proceeds from the auction will go to an escrow account. If Crundwell is found guilty, the money will eventually go to the U.S. Marshals Service and the town of Dixon. But if Crundwell is not guilty, she will receive the money, officials said.
Professional Auction Services, a Virginia-based company leading the event, also sold off saddles, hay feeders, fencing and related items, including eight horse trailers, four trucks and two gators.
But for most, it was about the award-winning horses.
“These are really great breeding stallions,” said Vicky Swenson, 27, a chiropractor from Sandwich, Ill. “I don’t know if it’s the number being sold, but they’re going for a lot less than what I would’ve expected.”
Andy Swanson, of Louisville, Ky, drove up with his wife, Kelly, for business.
“She sells horse insurance, so we came up here to see about getting some new clients,” he said.
The couple stopped at Green River Saddle Club in Amboy, Ill., to meet with current clients and prospective Crundwell-horse buyers who had come from as far away as California.
Swanson, though, said the spectacle was alluring enough.
“Today was just something we had to see,” he said.