SACRAMENTO — Federal prosecutors recommended an eight-year prison sentence for a former campaign treasurer who pleaded guilty to stealing millions from her clients over the course of a decade.
Kinde Durkee, who took money from at least two Santa Monica campaigns, pleaded guilty in March to five counts of mail fraud after it was found that she had stolen at least $7 million from high-profile Democratic candidates like Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Her plea deal included a sentence between 11 and 14 years, but prosecutors are asking for 97 months, or just over eight years, according to a court filing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not give a reason for the change offered up by the Probation Department, said Lauren Horwood, public information officer for the office in California’s eastern district.
“The plea agreement stated 11 to 14 years as the possible sentence. Then the Probation Department researches (and) writes a report,” she said. “Based on that report, the government can either object or agree with their findings. In this case, they agreed.”
That does not mean that the judge, Kimberly J. Mueller, has to follow that recommendation, Horwood said.
Prosecutors say that Durkee, 59, took millions of dollars from clients to pay for personal expenses like her credit card bills and her mother’s assisted living center.
Durkee moved money between accounts to keep her clients unaware.
In March, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner called Durkee “the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers,” referring to the infamous New York financial manager who pleaded guilty to operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, according to the Associated Press.
Durkee and her husband, John Forgy, have agreed to forfeit their Burbank office and hand over her retirement account, estimated at somewhere between $100,000 and $120,000, the AP reported.
That’s not much compared to the amount she stole, and no one, including Councilmember Terry O’Day, is holding their breath that they’ll get much of their cash back.
O’Day was one of a handful of political figures victimized by Durkee.
She managed his campaign cash in his 2010 bid for the City Council alongside the accounts for the Committee to Protect Community and Schools, a local organization formed to support the half-cent sales tax passed in 2010, also known as Measure Y.
Durkee also acted as treasurer for Rent Control Board candidate Chris Braun and Santa Monicans for Quality Government, a developer-backed group that got involved in the 2010 election.
O’Day lost over $16,000 in the scam, and was forced to start from the beginning for his successful 2012 council bid. He tapped former Santa Monica High School PTA President Debbie Mulvaney for the treasurer spot this time around.
At this point, he and others are just trying to move on, O’Day said.
“A lot of people were hurt badly by her, and many more so than I was,” O’Day said. “I do hope they feel some measure of justice on Wednesday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.