The U.S. Marshals Service is auctioning 150 belt buckles awarded for top finishes in horse shows that belonged to Rita Crundwell, the former comptroller of Dixon, Illinois who stole $53 million from the city over two decades.
The auction will take place online from November 17 through December 1 at www.txauction.com.
Other items in the auction are 71 pieces of artwork — including some portraits of Crundwell. There are decorative crystal pieces, Crundwell’s pink Cadillac bicycle, two large antique wooden wagon wheels, horse saddles and other tack, furniture, tools, a margarita machine, Tumi luggage, silverware, pots and pans, handbags, shoes, and boots.
Crundwell, 62, was one of the leading breeders of quarter horses in the United States. Before her conviction in 2012, she owned about 400 horses.
In 2013, she was sentenced to more than 19 years in federal prison. She’s serving her sentence at Waseca Federal Correctional Institute in Minnesota.
So far, the U.S. Marshals have returned $9.5 million of the $53 million that Crundwell stole.
She went to work for the Dixon finance department in 1970 while still in high school. She was appointed comptroller/treasurer in 1983.
In late 1990, Crundwell opened a bank account for the city called “RSCDA – Reserve Fund.” The initials stood for Reserve Sewer Capital Development Account. Crundwell controlled the account and kept it secret from other city officials.
In 1991, she made her first transfers to the RSCDA account of $181,000.
“As the fraud scheme continued, the amounts she stole increased to a high of $5.8 million in 2008, and she took an average of more than $2.5 million a year over the 20-year course of the scheme,” the DOJ said.
Because of Crundwell’s thefts, Dixon had to cut some programs. Crundwell blamed the chronic budget problems on a bad economy and late payments from the State of Illinois.
When she was arrested, her annual salary was $80,000.
Dixon, the county seat of Lee County, Illinois, had a population of 15,733 in the 2010 census.
The city discovered Crundwell’s thefts in 2011 when she took a long vacation. Her replacement asked for bank statements for all of the city’s accounts. The statements included the RSCDA account. The replacement showed the mayor, who didn’t recognize the account.
Crundwell kept her 400 quarter horses at her ranch on Red Brick Road in Dixon and the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wisconsin, among other places.
In addition to her horses, the U.S. Marshals seized Crundwell’s two homes and horse farm in Dixon, a home in Englewood, Florida, 80 acres of vacant land in Lee County, a 2009 luxury motor home, more than four dozen trucks, trailers and other farm vehicles, a 2005 Ford Thunderbird convertible, a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette roadster, a pontoon boat, jewelry, and $224,898 in cash from two bank accounts.
The U.S. Marshals Service manages and sells assets the DOJ seizes. The proceeds from the Asset Forfeiture Program are used to compensate victims and support law enforcement programs.