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Ex-Dixon Comptroller's Ranch Sold To Nephew

Crundwell Ranch
A ranch owned by former Dixon city comptroller Rita Crundwell was seized by federal authorities after she was charged with embezzling more than $53 million from the town. The ranch is now up for sale to help reimburse the city. (Credit: U.S. Marshals Service)

Updated 02/05/13 - 5:21 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The expansive ranch owned by former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell was sold Friday to her nephew and his wife, for more than $1 million.

CBS 2's Marissa Bailey reports Richard "Rick" A. Humphrey Jr. closed on the 88-acre property Friday, with a final purchase price of $1,134,375.00, according to the Lee County Clerk's office. He had submitted the highest bid at an auction that began in November.

Humphrey owns the waste management business Affordable Waste based in Dixon that has been the long-time waste management provider for the city of Dixon. The contract was just renewed at the end of last year.

According to property documents, Crundwell bought the property in 2011 from her brother, Richard A. Humphrey Sr., for $270,000.00.

Property documents also indicated the ranch, located at 1556 Red Brick Road in Dixon, was last assessed in 2011 for $142,699.00. It's unclear why the property was assessed for that price, but sold for almost 10 times that amount.

Rita Crundwell
Rita Crundwell, the former comptroller of Dixon, Illinois, arrives at the federal courthouse in Rockford for her arraignment on charges she embezzled $53 million from the town since 1990. (Credit: CBS)

The United States Marshals Service received offers on four of Rita Crundwell's properties back in December.

Three of those properties are still for sale but are expected to close in the next few weeks. Humphrey's offer was one of many on the ranch property. The lowest offer for the property was $700,000.00.

In a statement to CBS 2, the federal marshal overseeing the Crundwell case defended the sale of the ranch to a Crundwell family member.

"It is important that the public does not assume guilt by association. The sales process was open to anyone who complied with the published terms and conditions of sale. Included in the terms, was a list of people prohibited from submitting offers for any of the properties. Based on our review, the buyer met the criteria for purchasing the property." says Jason Wojdylo, chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Humphrey declined an on-camera interview, but told Bailey over the phone that Crundwell's family members are not being given preferential treatment or advantages over other buyers.

"It was a family farm. We have a need for it," he said. "We were shown no favoritism by the United States Marshals. We put a business plan together and a local bank loaned us the money."

Humphrey said had had been interested in the property since Crundwell was arrested, mainly because the farm has been part of his family since the 1970s. Humphrey owns a show cattle business called Humphrey Show Cattle. He said he plans to raise cattle on the ranch, and has already started moving animals and equipment on the land.

Dixon Mayor James Burke said his town's residents were surprised a Humphrey ended up buying the ranch. While many think Crundwell had a hand in her nephew buying the property, Burke said there's no way that happened.

"I've got nothing but positive things to say about them, and I think they've just been tarnished with the whole brush of Rita's deal, which is kind of unfortunate," he said.

Humphrey vehemently denied that money for his businesses or the newly acquired ranch property came from Crundwell.

Burke also said, as far as he knows, Crundwell didn't give her nephew any money for the purchase.

Humphrey confirmed he has spoken to Crundwell a few times since she was arrested and says she's "fine.".

He would not talk about his thoughts on Crundwell admitting to federal authorities that she stole millions from the city of Dixon.

"Whether or not Rita is a family member, I cannot control what she did." Humphrey said.

The United States Marshals Service confirmed to CBS 2 that the offer given by Humphrey was in fact the highest offer submitted for the property.

The auction for former Dixon comptroller Rita Crundwell's jewelry will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas and simulcast online.

Crundwell's jewelry also will be auctioned off this month, beginning at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas. The preview for the jewelry auction will be Feb. 22 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CT at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

All items will be sold "As Is, Where Is" and there are no warranties or guarantees. For more information on the auction, click here.

Crundwell was the city comptroller in Dixon for more than 22 years.

In November, she admitted to stealing more than $53 million from city bank accounts to finance her lavish lifestyle and successful quarter horse business.

She is currently out on bond but scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 14 at the federal courthouse in Rockford.

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