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Crundwell Liquidation Nearly Complete

Jenna Dooley

The U.S. Marshals Service has liquidated nearly all of the assets of Rita Crundwell, the former Dixon comptroller who admitted embezzling vast sums from the city. One of the final sales will be her personal jewelry collection. The jewelry sale, scheduled Feb. 23 in Texas, will be simulcast to reach a wider audience.

When all is said and done, the city of Dixon will only recoup a fraction of the $53 million taken from the city's coffers over the last two decades.

It is no surprise that much of the money will be lost forever. That's according to Jason Wojdylo with the U.S. Marshals Service.  He says that's because Crundwell used money on "consumables" like food, travel, and personal care.  He estimates the city will get back about a fifth of what was taken (after government expenses.)

The money has been placed into an escrow account.

WEB EXTRA: Depositions in Crundwell investigation

There could have been a lot less to go around. Wojdylo says a key factor in this case was the ability to sell  Crundwell's assets before her sentencing.  That, he says, made this case unique:

“Had the court not given us the authority to sell the assets in advance of even a guilty plea (which occurred back in November), the costs would have continued to mount at a significant rate, particularly when you speak about the livestock.” - Jason Wojdylo, U.S. Marshals Service

Wojdylo says selling the assets was a challenge, given that livestock she owned had to be cared for before it could be sold.  He said from the onset,  it was not an exact science to project how much money Crundwell's property and belongings would bring in.  The sale of horses varied widely from less than $100 to hundreds of thousands of dollars per animal. It cost $1.6 million to care for the horses before they were sold.

Another major profit center is Crundwell's properties. She owned five pieces of real estate.  Counter-offers are still being accepted through Friday for her primary residence in Dixon. The only property left to sell is a home in Florida. That should go up for sale in February. Contracts on Crundwell's other three properties are underway but have not yet closed. 

The government spent some of the proceeds from the sales on commissions and appraisals. But Wojdylo says there were significant cost savings by handling some of the sales internally. Additionally, buyers of the homes are responsible for paying delinquent property taxes and closing costs.  Wojdylo estimates there will be $1 million more to give back to Dixon compared with what he calls “traditional disposal methods.”

“Given the nature of the crime, given the geographic area -- very small community in what is otherwise the heartland of America that was victimized over so many years, at such a loss -- we dedicated extraordinary resources to try to recoup as much money as possible.”

Wojdylo says an income-to-expense-ratio report will be available to prosecutors for Crundwell's sentencing on February 14.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
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