When Kinde Durkee pleaded guilty in March to embezzling at least $7 million in campaign funds from Orange County Democrats such as Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) and Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), as well as other California politicians like U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, she was looking at up to 14 years in prison. The Burbank-based campaign treasurer is looking at 8 years now, thanks to prosecutors.
Kinde Durkee, Democratic Treasurer, Accused of Fraud
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Durkee was arrested in September 2011 and later charged in U.S. District Court in Sacramento with strip mining the campaign funds she oversaw for more than 50 California Democrats. A 17-page complaint accused her of transferring $7 million from the combined accounts of her clients to her Durkee and Associates firm without their permission.
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Under a plea deal reached in March, Durkee copped to using the ill-gotten loot to pay personal expenses, including a mortgage and credit card bills, as well as business expenses and payroll. For instance, $23,000 from Feinstein's federal campaign helped wipe out a $30,000 American Express bill with charges from Disneyland, Amazon.com, Trader Joe's and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Some candidates, including Sanchez and Solorio, have filed civil lawsuits against Durkee, who federal prosecutors dubbed "the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers" for her 12-year rip-off reign.
Those same prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office are recommending a little more than eight years behind bars for Durkee. If the judge agrees, she would have to serve six years and 10 months in the joint before she is eligible for parole.