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Dismantling of Rita's empire

Live, online equine sales trot up just over $6 million

DIXON – It took Rita Crundwell 22 years and tens of millions of dollars in city funds to build her prize horse and breeding operations, prosecutors say. 

It took only 2 days to sell it all, for a fraction of that amount.

Against a soundtrack of lightning-fast auction patter punctuated by the shouts of bidders, the horses, the tack they wore, the stalls they lived in, even the mats on which they stood all made their way to the auction block.

By the end of the day Monday, proceeds reached around $4.5 million, according to rough estimates. About 319 horses sold over the 2 days.

An online auction of 80 horses earlier this month netted $1.6 million.

The auction company, Professional Auction Services Inc., expects to have definitive totals today.

The proceeds of the sale of her horses and other assets, minus costs and liens, will be given to the city as restitution if Crundwell is convicted in federal court, where she faces a charge of wire fraud.

The who’s who of the horse industry and looky-lous by the thousands turned out for the 2-day dismantling of Rita Crundwell’s empire. Come Saturday, the day by which buyers must have removed their booty, the ranch on Red Brick Road will be a virtual ghost town.

Monday’s top earner was Execute, a three-time world champion performance halter stallion, who pulled in $245,000.

“There’s not a lot of horses that can do what he’s done,” the auctioneer told the crowd.
Execute, who hit the auction ring about 2:30 p.m., was the first of the halter horses to go up for bid. He was bought by Scheckel Paint & Quarter Horses of Bellevue, Iowa, also world-champion horse breeders.

Most of the horses brought a good price, attendees said.

They went for “retail plus,” said Carl Yamber, a trainer from Roberta, Ga.

Ken Cruce of Jonesboro, Ark., agreed, saying that some of the horses went “extremely high.” Cruce trains horses on the side.

“I hope the community got a lot of money from all of these people coming into town,” Yamber said.

Besides what Yamber spent on four horses, he estimates his group spent more than $1,000 per person on their trip to Dixon. Another trainer in his group, Todd Grant, also of Roberta, bought three horses.

Not all brought top dollar. Some sold for only a few hundred dollars.

Acoolest, a seven-time world champion stallion, sold for only $31,000, but Tim Jennings, co-owner of Professional Auction Services, said he wasn’t disappointed.

The breeding business has taken a big hit in this economy, he said. 

“You used to have that middle-market business person who probably would have stepped up and bought one for $100,000 or $150,000,” Jennings said. “A lot of those guys are gone from the market because there is not as much disposable income.”

Acoolest, who is younger than Execute, has reached the end of his championship career and has not yet proven himself as a sire, which also may explain why he didn’t sell for more, Jennings said. 

The horses have been in the care of the U.S. Marshal’s Service since shortly after Crundwell, 59, was federally indicted. She also is charged with 60 counts of theft in Lee County.

A judge approved the sale of her 400-plus herd, five of her properties and many other items of personal property with no objections from her.

Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector for the marshals’ asset forfeiture division, said that marshals have spent more than $1.3 million caring for Crundwell’s herd, part of which was spread across the country, between May and August.

September’s bills are expected to add $300,000 more, he said.

Although he was relieved that all the horses found new homes, Wojdylo said the marshals haven’t quite finished their job.

“We’re at the end of the horse sale – we’re not at the end of the case,” Wojdylo said. “We still have lots of assets to liquidate.”

Those assets include furniture, jewelry, fur coats, boats, and vehicles. Wojdylo said he expects much of that will be sold at a large community auction at Crundwell’s ranch.

Other assets in Wisconsin and Englewood, Fla., where she has a vacation home, will be sold online.

In the meantime, marshals are waiting to see what Crundwell’s luxury 2009 Liberty Elegant Lady Coach will bring. It’s been for sale in an online auction that ends at 11 a.m. today. 

Crundwell bought the motor home for $2.108 million in July 2008; she still owes about $434,000 on it.

As of Monday night, the highest bid was $754,514.

Marshals decided to sell the motor home online after a sealed bid process failed to muster the minimum $1 million bid.

Top sellers

1. Good I Will Be, a three-time world champion, for $775,000

2. Execute, a three-time world champion and world champion sire, for $245,000\

3. I Execute Class, a five-time world champion, for $226,000.

4. Pizzazzy Lady, a five-time world champion halter mare and world champion producer, for $126,000.

5. IE Copy, a world champion and high point hunter under saddle, for $101,000.

Other sale highlights from the sale:

– A 2009 Freightliner truck with 77,635 miles, for $78,000.

– A leather show halter adorned with 2-karat diamonds, appraised at $1,750, for $2,700.

– Ten 12-by-12-foot matted horse stalls with feeders and waterers, for $12,000.

– A 2009 Featherlite horse trailer with $53,149 miles on it, for $69,000.

– A 2000 International truck for $28,000.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

See: Crundwell motor home auctioned off for $800k

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