SACRAMENTO — The woman accused of stealing money from Democratic candidates across California did so for over a decade and made off with $7 million in that time, according to a court document released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kinde Durkee and her company, Durkee & Associates, specialized in providing accounting and campaign reporting services for political committees for state and federal offices, as well as local elections in Santa Monica.
She faces five counts of mail fraud, and is expected to be in court Friday.
The information item, released Tuesday, details allegations that Durkee moved large sums of money between campaign accounts for clients like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Assemblymember Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) in order to conceal the fact that she was siphoning funds for things like her mortgage on a condominium in Long Beach and her phone bills.
There are at least 50 victims of the scheme and, in total, Durkee is accused of taking over $7 million from her clients, including Santa Monica officials.
A separate legal action filed by First California Bank in September, which held the nearly 400 accounts under Durkee’s control, alleged that local officials, including City Council member Terry O’Day, Rent Control Board member Chris Braun and the Committee to Protect Community and Schools, lost thousands of dollars while under Durkee’s control.
The five charges of mail fraud against Durkee stem from allegedly falsified campaign finance disclosures that she mailed to the Federal Elections Commission between July 2010 and February 2011.
She was arrested by federal agents in September 2011 and released on $200,000 bail.
According to the document, Durkee took $200,000 between December 2006 and April 2008 from the campaign committee for Jerome Horton, who was running for the California State Board of Equalization.
In June 2010, when Durkee was aware that she was under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission, she repaid some of the money she took from Horton’s account by taking money from three other accounts.
Those included $25,000 from the committee Feinstein for Senate, $30,000 from the Committee to Re-Elect Loretta Sanchez and $15,000 from the Committee to Re-Elect Linda Sanchez.
Durkee reported none of the transfers in federal disclosure forms that she filed with the California Secretary of State.
Additionally, money from the various accounts was used to cover Durkee’s personal bills, payroll for her company and costs for an assisted living center in which her mother lived.
Durkee was originally arrested for allegedly removing $700,000 from the money market account of Solorio for Assembly 2010.
The assemblymember, who represents areas of Southern California including Santa Ana and Anaheim, released a statement Tuesday in response to a report by Politico News that Durkee is expected to plead guilty to the charges, asking federal officials to stick her with the most time possible in prison.
“In finalizing a long sentence term, I’m hoping the FBI and courts send a message to treasurers, accountants and book keepers around the country that defrauding their clients is a serious matter,” Solorio wrote.
He also accused First California Bank, which held many of the accounts controlled by Durkee, of complicity.
“Many red flags were raised, and the First California Bank did nothing in over 10 years to stop Durkee,” Solorio wrote.
When the scandal first came to light, First California Bank froze all accounts, preventing even the rightful owners from finding out immediately whether or not they had lost money.