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Online horse auction breaks even

DIXON – Between boarding, hay, vet bills and other costs, the online auction to sell off the first 93 of Rita Crundwell’s esteemed quarter horses was a wash.

But Dixon City Commissioner Jeff Kuhn wasn’t disappointed.

“I think it’s a real good start,” he said. “If everything sounds the way it is, it will be a very profitable live auction for us.”

Kuhn followed along the final minutes of the online sale last week, refreshing the screen of Professional Auction Services Inc.’s website.

When the final lot closed, bids totaled $1,641,200, which exceeded the expectations of the auction company.

“Our projection, personally, was right at a million – our happy number was a million, five,” said Tim Jennings, co-owner of PAS in Round Hill, Va. “It was awesome ... We went 10 percent past wonderful.”

Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Services’ Asset Forfeiture Division, said it was “safe to say” that based on bills through August, marshals have spent about $1.354 million to care for Crundwell’s horses since early May.

“I think we’ve exceeded our break-even point,” Wojdylo said of the online sale.

Wojdylo said the amount marshals have spent so far seems to be on par with what industry experts say is typical.

Marshals have been caring for the horses since Crundwell, the former Dixon comptroller, was indicted on a single charge of wire fraud, in connection with what prosecutors say was the misappropriation of $53 million in city funds since 1990.

Any profit from the sales, minus costs and legal liens, will go back to the city if Crundwell is convicted. The auction company will be paid through a buyer’s premium, a percentage that is tacked on to each sale.

In the meantime, all profits will sit in an escrow account until the case is revolved.

The city still has a chance to earn back some of the money prosecutors say was taken.

A live auction Sept. 23-24 will sell off more than 300 of Crundwell’s horses; 13 saddles; frozen horse semen; 250 bridles, bits, and reins; and 17 saddle blankets, pads and covers.

The latter items were forfeited recently, Wojdylo said. Crundwell did not contest the forfeiture.

She also did not object to the sale of the horses, five properties and a luxury motor home. The motor home, which also is being sold online, has a current high bid of $150,050.

Just more than 500 people registered to bid during the online horse auction. The number is unprecedented for an online horse auction, according to conversations with the auction company.

Winning bids ranged in price from a few thousand to $226,000. 

Eleven horses, all recipient mares, failed to draw any bids.

Jennings said the company and marshals are discussing what they will do with these horses and make sure they go to a safe home. Recipient mares are horses that serve as surrogates.

Jennings said the activity of the online auction makes him confident the horses sold during the live auction could turn a good profit. 

While he said it’s hard to say for sure, he said the live auction could pull in between $2.5 million and $4 million. 

“Realistically in this economy and (because) this is clearly a luxury item, I think the first go of Phase 1 of the online sale has been astounding,” Jennings said. “The live auction will be really exciting.”

Wojdylo said he did not expect the horses to sell as well as they did during the online auction.

“I think we have demonstrated that selling horses online has advantages,” he said.

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