A Dixon dynasty of horse breeding came crashing down with the auctioneer's gavel on Monday. That's as horses and items once belonging to Rita Crundwell went to the highest bidder.
Crundwell is the former Dixon comptroller accused of stealing $53 million from city coffers during the past two decades.
The auctioneer's banter led the way to Crundwell's ranch on Monday. Rapid-fire responses sold hundreds of horses worth millions of dollars. For a second straight day, more than 1,000 people packed the tent.
"It's just unbelievable," said Vanessa Cole, a former Crundwell customer from Patoka, Illinois. "We've met her personally, and she was a very hard worker. It's just very shocking."
Cole and other bidders filled binders with notes about the horses. It reflects the widespread interest in these noble animals.
"She raised quality, quality horses and had the best of everything," Cole continued. "They're here to get a piece of that."
This one-of-a-kind event is attracting international attention. For those participating, it's a strange scenario backed with good business potential.
"Some things have sold very well," said Lee Meller, Fort Madison. "Some, I think, could have brought more money surprisingly."
Bidders also checked out saddles and items from the stable. Remington reproductions of cowboy sculptures led the way to one display.
"We're well above the cost the government spent taking care of the horses," said auctioneer Mike Jennings, who was guiding the sale for the United States Marshals Service. "We're putting money back into the till at this point."
A brisk pace inside the tent moved more horses. This equine dynasty from Dixon is going across the globe.
"You hate to see anybody get caught up like this," Cole concluded. "But if she did what she did, then there needs to be consequences."
One by one now, each horse is finding a new home.