CHICAGO – The animals seized from a renowned horse breeder accused of using her day job as a city bookkeeper to steal millions in public funds have telling names: Jewels by Tiffany, Have Faith in Money.
Rita Crundwell lavished attention on her prize-winning animals, and their catchy names helped them stand out at show exhibitions. They might also reveal something about the woman prosecutors say was behind a staggering theft of $53 million from the city of Dixon in northern Illinois, or at least about the flashy breeding industry she loved.
More than 300 of her horses, among the most sought-after in the country, were handed over to U.S. marshals through a judge's forfeiture order on Thursday.
Jim Bret Campbell, a spokesman for the American Quarter Horse Association, cautioned not to read too much into the animals' names — among them, Packin Jewels, Sum for Me, Botox N Leather and I Found a Penny — and noted that Crundwell likely would only have chosen the names of the horses she bred, not those she purchased.
"The other thing that probably is pertinent is that many of our horses' names are generated by their pedigree, so the names of their sire and dam — their father and mother — contribute," Campbell said Friday.
"We had a very famous racing stallion named Dash for Cash, so we have a lot of horses that either have dash in their name or cash in their name. It's almost a way for breeders to signify that relationship to a famous horse."
The U.S. Marshalls Service plans to hire professionals to care for the horses with an eye toward selling them as part of any eventual restitution to the city of Dixon.
Crundwell's lawyer, Paul Gaziano, has refused to comment publicly on the case, citing rules of the federal defender program.
Crundwell is expected to enter a plea at her arraignment Monday. She is accused of siphoning public funds into a secret bank account opened in 1990 while she was Dixon comptroller. Prosecutors say she concealed the scheme by showing auditors phony invoices designed to look like they came from the state of Illinois and making it appear that the funds were going to legitimate purposes.
As an explanation for the shortfall, she told the mayor that the state was behind in disbursing funds to the city, according to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors contend she spent the funds on jewelry and cars, including a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster, as well as horses. The breed, known as quarter horses, is prized for being able to run short straightaways faster than any other. The best sell for $200,000.
Their playful names — many with references to money — are common in the industry, Campbell said. Crundwell also tipped her hat to the rich and famous with names like Will N Kate, for Prince William and bride Kate Middleton, and Shda Puta Ring on It, after the Beyonce hit "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." Others were saucy: Bathhouse Booty, Western Call Girl and She's Promiscuous.
"These are for the most part show animals, so they're trying to come up with names that do stand out in the show ring when they're announced," Campbell said.