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Auction of ex-comptroller’s horse operation nets nearly $5 million

By Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — More than 300 horses as well as equipment and vehicles from indicted former Dixon treasurer Rita Crundwell’s world-class operation sold for $4.78 million at an auction this week amid a crowd of eager horse enthusiasts from around the world and curious residents of the small northwestern Illinois town.

The proceeds come in addition to the $1.64 million that another 80 of Crundwell’s horses brought during an online auction earlier this month and $800,000 her luxury motor home netted at a separate online auction that wrapped up Tuesday, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“I believe it has exceeded expectations,” Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector of the marshals’ Asset Forfeiture Division, said of the weekend auction.

Crundwell’s assets are being sold off in the wake of allegations she stole $53 million over 22 years from the city’s coffers in order to fund a lavish lifestyle and her champion horse-breeding operation. Dixon hopes to recoup some of its massive losses through the sale of Crundwell’s assets if she is ultimately convicted. However, marshals will be paid off first for the estimated $1.5 million in expenses for caring for the horses. And there will likely be other expenses, including the more than $4,000 that Crundwell still owed on the motor home.

About 4,000 people flocked to the city best known as the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan on Sunday for the start of the two-day auction, and several thousand more watched and bid online, according to Tim Jennings, co-owner of Professional Auction Services, which ran the event.

“This industry has never seen anything like it and never is a long time, but I don’t know if it ever will again,” Jennings said. “A lot of people were buying things just to say they got it from here.”

The atmosphere, he said, was “electric” and resembled a circus or county fair.

Among those in attendance was Leonard Berryhill, a veteran Oklahoma horse trainer who trained the auction’s top seller, Good I Will Be, a stallion that sold for $775,000 Sunday. Berryhill said the horse’s “combination of beauty, size and grace” made it a standout.

Now marshals plan to auction off hundreds of Crundwell’s personal items such as furniture, TVs, fur coats, a hot tub, tanning bed, paintings, even bookends. A date has not been set. A judge also has given

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