Feds Seek Forfeiture of Crundwell Horses

More than 300 Quarter Horses belonging to Rita Crundwell could become government property if a civil court grants federal prosecutors' request that the embattled breeder forfeit the animals.

Crundwell is the owner of RC Quarter Horses LLC, and operates the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wis., and another horse farm in Dixon, Ill. Horses not located at those locations reside with various trainers around the country. Crundwell has been a leading Quarter Horse breeder having earned Leading Breeder Award honors at eight AQHA World Championship Shows.

In April, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Crundwell and charged her with one count of wire fraud after a federal grand jury in Illinois returned an initial indictment accusing Crundwell of misappropriating $30 million in funds from the town of Dixon, Ill. The charge carries potential maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or an alternate fine totaling twice the cost of the loss or twice the gain, whichever is greater.

Crundwell was later released on her own recognizance. Assistant United States Attorney Joseph C. Pedersen said further investigation resulted in an expanded indictment accusing Crundwell of allegedly misappropriating more than $53 million from the Town of Dixon over the course of more than 20 years.

Crundwell was unavailable for comment.

Pedersen said the expanded indictment seeks criminal forfeiture of $53 million as well as numerous assets seized from Crundwell at the time of her arrest. Those assets include the Dixon, Ill., horse farm, a luxury motor home, numerous vehicles, and other assets including Crundwell's championship trophies. On May 1 the U.S. government asked the court to issue a restraining order on the real estate that is allegedly subject to the criminal forfeiture, Pedersen said.

Also on May 1, the government filed a civil lawsuit alleging that 311 registered Quarter Horses owned by Crundwell are subject to civil forfeiture because she purchased and/or maintained them with criminal fraud proceeds, Pedersen said. In addition to the 311 horses, dozens of foals are expected to be born this spring, he said. As part of the civil lawsuit, the government requested a pretrial restraining order securing the government's interest in the horses, and allowing officials to take necessary steps to ensure the animals' veterinary and dietary care remains ongoing. The government will seek to eventually sell the horses and apply the proceeds toward restitution to the City of Dixon, said Pedersen.

In the meantime, the U.S. Marshals Service is expected to hire a contractor to manage the horses, Pedersen said. American Quarter Horse Association Director of Marketing and Publications Jim Bret Campbell said that federal authorities have consulted with the organization regarding the horses' care.

"They have contacted us and we have made some recommendations about how the horses will be brought through the transition process," Campbell said. "Right now, we don't know what that transition process is going to look like."

Crundwell is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Rockford, Ill., on May 7 for arraignment.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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