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Horses for sale, curious entries in Crundwell case

UPDATE: (6/16/12) 

A federal judge has granted permission to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin selling 401 quarter horses owned by former Dixon Comptroller Rita A. Crundwell.

Federal marshals wanted permission to sell some or all of the more than 400 horses owned by former Dixon Comptroller Rita A. Crundwell because of “burdensome” costs, according to a federal court filing this week.

And interim financial officers for the City of Dixon have discovered entries in old city budgets that Crundwell, in her role as the chief financial officer, made  that could point toward funds she is accused of misusing.

Crundwell 59, is charged with wire fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s office says she misappropriated more than $53 million in city funds over two decades, using some of it to pay for her horse operations and her “lavish lifestyle.” Crundwell will be in court today for her criminal case.

The U.S. Marshals Service already has received court approval to sell the real estate and some of the vehicles – including a $2 million motor home – belonging to Crundwell. That request was made under an agreement with the defendant and her attorneys, although no guilt was admitted in the agreement.

The motion from Asst. U.S. Atty. Joe Pedersen notes that Crundwell does not have the means to care for the horses herself.

An amended complaint also filed by prosecutors Thursday identifies 401 horses, 21 embryos, 13 saddles, and frozen stallion semen from eight horses that they believe Crundwell bought with city funds.

In his motion to sell the horses, Pedersen wrote that maintenance costs are “burdensome,” especially because some of the mares are pregnant or recently gave birth.

Most of Crundwell’s assets have been seized and she and any associates have been barred from selling or doing anything to devalue them.

Marshals have said that two of Crundwell’s Dixon properties will not be sold immediately because they house many horses.

Emily K. Coleman, a reporter for saukvalley.com, writes that a Dixon budget workshop this week yielded hints that Crundwell planned for transfers that eventually led to the account from which she is accused of taking city monies for herself.

“…in the proposed budget presented at a workshop Wednesday evening, the line item referring to transfers to the capital development fund now reads ‘TBD,’ or to be determined,” Coleman reports. “Past budgets submitted by then-Comptroller Rita Crundwell show, at their highest, more than $4 million a year being transferred to the capital development fund.Most of the time, those transfers were in three lump sums in the budget. One for $3 million was the very last item in the budget of the department she headed.”

She says that interim finance officers Stan Helgerson and David Richardson wouldn’t say those entries definitely indicate plans for future activity, “but based on their assumptions, it looks like it.”