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Rita’s ranch no more ...

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 3:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 3:08 p.m. CDT

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DIXON — The quarter horse ranch owned by former city Comptroller Rita Crundwell has been sold to her nephew and his wife for $1,134,375.

Brenda and Richard “Rick” Humphrey Jr. closed on the 1556 Red Brick Road property on Friday.

They bought the 88-acre site, which has been in the Humphrey family for 30 years, to expand their show cattle and beef business, Humphrey Show Cattle, Rick Humphrey said Tuesday.

“There’s always been an interest there,” he said, noting that his father, Richard Sr., sold the property to Crundwell, his dad’s sister. “If available, we would try to acquire it if we could afford it.”

Humphrey said the family wants to expand its business. Recently, two of Rick’s three sons graduated from Kansas State University in agriculture economics and animal science with plans to help grow the business.

He and his wife will live on the property; he could move his animals in by next week and have everything moved in by summer, he said.

Brenda Humphrey also owns Affordable Waste, which is Dixon’s contracted garbage provider.

Humphrey said he obtained a loan from a Dixon bank to buy the property, and that none of the money came from Crundwell. He has had conversations with his aunt since her arrest, he said, but not about the sale of the properties.

“You can’t control what happens,” he said. “I can’t control what she did.”

Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service, which is tasked with selling Crundwell’s assets, said he is “confident that no advantage was given to any participant at any point” in the sale of the property.

“The sales process was open to anyone who complied with the published terms and conditions of sale,” Wojdylo said.

“Included in the terms was a list of people prohibited from submitting offers for any of the properties. It is important that the public does not assume guilt by association. Based on our review, the buyer met the criteria for purchasing the property.”

The list includes anyone employed by the U.S. Marshals Service and anyone acting in concert with or on behalf of anybody on that prohibited list, including Crundwell, Wojdylo said.

“To make it clear, it’s a family farm,” Humphrey said. “We have a need for it. We went through the same process as the general public; we were shown no favoritism from the U.S. Marshals Service. We put a business plan together; our local bank agreed with our business plan and was kind enough to loan the money, so that we could pursue a dream.”

As for the city’s contract with Affordable Waste, Mayor Jim Burke said the company has been the city’s contracted provider since 2007. At that time, vendors submitted sealed bids that were opened for the first time with all the bidding vendors present. Affordable Waste had the lowest bid, Burke said.

“I can understand where people are coming from to ask about this,” he said. “But I don’t think Rick or Brenda have any dishonest involvement with Rita or anything else. I don’t believe that.

“Unfortunately, they’ve been tarred with a big broad brush. I know it looks funny. There’ll be an awful lot of tongues on the whole issue, but they didn’t do anything at all.”

When the contract with Affordable Waste expired in 2011, the city council extended it for a year. It recently went out for bid again, and again, Affordable came in with the lowest bid, extending the contract for five years.

“I just know that the FBI would’ve gone as deep as you can go to find out if Rita had any money in that business,” Burke added.

The Red Brick Road property is one of three the Marshals Service said it has entered into contracts to sell for more than $3 million total. Humphrey said he could not comment on whether other Crundwell family members bid on the other two properties, a house at 1403 Dutch Road and about 81 acres of farmland.

Wojdylo said he expects to close the sale on the farmland this week.

Crundwell bought the Red Brick Road property from her brother, Humphrey’s father, Richard A. Humphrey Sr., in 2002 and made two $270,000 payments, according to county records.

In November, Crundwell pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud as part of a scheme in which she stole nearly $54 million from the city. She faces up to 20 years in prison at her sentencing Feb. 14.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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