AQHA Breeder Arrested by FBI

AQHA Breeder Arrested by FBI, Charged

Updated April 18, 2012

The American Quarter Horse Association’s Leading Breeder was led away by FBI agents today in handcuffs. Rita Crundwell is accused of using her day job as the Comptroller for the City of Dixon, Illinois to fund her lavish lifestyle and horse habit.

Crundwell is facing a federal charge for allegedly defrauding the city of more than $3.2 million since the fall. In total, the criminal complaint alleges she has misappropriated more than $30 million in city funds since 2006 to support her horse business.

Agents executed search and seizure warrants today at Crundwell’s home, office, and farms in Dixon and Beloit, Wisconsin. They also seized the contents of two bank accounts she controlled. Seven trucks and trailers, three pick-ups, a $2.1 million motor home, and a Ford Thunderbird convertible, allegedly purchased with illegal proceeds were also seized.   

Rita Crundwell horse trailer
Meri-J Ranch Horse Trailer

The AQHA released a statement regarding Crundwell’s arrest, “We are monitoring and seeking additional information regarding today’s developments and will attempt to answer Association-related inquiries based on the information available to AQHA.”

Dixon Mayor James Burke reported Crundwell to law enforcement authorities last fall after a city employee assumed Crundwell’s duties during Crundwell’s extended unpaid vacation. According to the complaint, Crundwell receives four weeks of paid vacation annually and she took an additional 12 weeks of unpaid vacation in 2011. In October last year, while Crundwell was away from work, a Dixon employee who served as her replacement requested all of the city’s bank statements. After reviewing them, the employee brought the records of a particular account to Mayor Burke’s attention.
Mayor Burke was unaware that this account existed, the complaint states, adding that he then went to law enforcement since none of the withdrawals appeared to be related to any legitimate business of the City of Dixon. Although the bank records show that the primary account holder is the City of Dixon, a joint account holder is listed as RSCDA, and the checks written on this account list the account holder as “R.S.C.D.A., C/O Rita Crundwell.”
Between September 2011 and March 2012, in her capacity as comptroller, Crundwell wrote 19 checks totaling $3.5 million on the Capital Development Fund account payable to “Treasurer,” and deposited these checks into the account listing RSCDA as the joint account holder. She then allegedly took more than $3 million from the RSCDA account by checks and online withdrawals, using only about $74,000 for the city’s operations. Crundwell allegedly used the remainder of those funds, more than $3.2 million, for her own personal and business expenses, including approximately $450,000 relating to her horse farming operations, $600,000 in online credit card payments, and $67,000 to purchase a 2012 Chevy Silverado pickup truck.

After discovering that Crundwell allegedly had recently transferred $3,558,000 in city funds to the RSCDA account, the FBI obtained additional bank records showing that between July 2006 and March 2012, Crundwell allegedly deposited a total of more than $30 million in city funds into the RSCDA account, and paid out the same for her own personal and business expenses.

The complaint alleges that she used fraudulently obtained funds to make additional purchases, including a 2009 Liberty Coach Motor Home for more than $2 million, a 2009 Kenworth T800 Tractor Truck for $147,000, a 2009 Freightliner Truck for $140,000, a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and a 2009 Featherlite Horse Trailer for $259,000. Between January of 2007 and March of 2012, Crundwell incurred charges of more than $2.5 million on her personal American Express credit card account, including more than $339,000 on jewelry alone, and allegedly used Dixon funds to pay the entire amount of charges.

Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, or an alternate fine totaling twice the loss or twice the gain, whichever is greater. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Pedersen.