Rita Crundwell with 2005 AQHA World Champion Execute, one of 400 of her horses that were sold by federal officials after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud. • Photo by K.C. Montgomery.

Prominent Quarter Horse Breeder Released Early From Prison

An American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) champion owner and exhibitor authorities say stole $53.7 million from an Illinois town has been released from prison early.

Rita Crundwell, 68, is no longer in prison and is now one of more than 15,000 federal prisoners under the supervision of the Residential Reentry Management (RRM) field office in Chicago. She had been in federal prison serving a roughly 19.5-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2012 to wire fraud.

Authorities accused the champion breeder of Western pleasure and halter horses of stealing more than $53 million while she served as the comptroller for the city of Dixon, a community of approximately 15,000 residents located about 100 miles west of Chicago.

Crundwell was initially supposed to serve 85 percent of the 235-month sentence, or about 16.5 years, before she could be released, according to a statement from the U.S. Marshal’s Service announcing her sentencing.

The Chicago Tribune reported Crundwell had petitioned for early release.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service was able to recover some of the money by selling off Crundwell’s assets, including trophies, trailers, vehicles, tack, equipment and 400 Quarter Horses. The leading seller at her dispersal, Good I Will Be, reportedly brought a top bid of $775,000. A 2004 stallion, Execute, reportedly was sold for $245,000.

At the time of her arrest, Crundwell was the leading owner at the past eight American Quarter Horse Association World Shows, based on points earned at those events. At the 2011 event in Oklahoma City, she entered 19 horses and earned nine World Championship titles.

Trophies confiscated from Quarter Horse breeder Rita Crundwell. • Courtesy photo.

Among the assets seized by Crundwell – who had an annual salary from the City of Dixon of $80,000 – included a $2.1 million motor home, seven trucks and trailers, three pickup trucks, and a Ford Thunderbird convertible, all of which authorities alleged were purchased with “illegal proceeds.”

A documentary film, All The Queen’s Horses, later detailed how Crundwell was able to steal so much money, how she was eventually caught and the impact it had on the city of Dixon and its residents. The film also explored how embezzlement is not unique to the City of Dixon, but is something that can happen to other municipalities, businesses and organizations.