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Calif. prosecutors: Democratic treasurer used nearly $700K in campaign funds for her own debts
LOS ANGELES (AP) ' A longtime Democratic campaign accountant whose clients included U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein siphoned off nearly $700,000 from a California candidate's campaign to pay her credit cards, a mortgage and business bills, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Kinde Durkee ' who heads Durkee & Associates in Burbank, Calif., and served as a bookkeeper on scores of political campaigns ' was arrested Friday on suspicion of mail fraud by the FBI.
A federal complaint released Tuesday outlines an elaborate shell game in which Durkee furtively shifted money out of state Assemblyman Jose Solorio's 2010 campaign to pay for an array of debts, from a Disneyland restaurant to shopping at Costco to her mother's care at an assisted-living facility.
Durkee's scheme used Solorio and his campaign to "obtain money from them by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses," it said.
The complaint said investigators found "substantial sums" have routinely been moved out of campaign committees under her control, then placed into her company accounts or channeled to other campaigns, apparently when suspicions were raised about missing money.
Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento, Calif., said the investigation is expected to result in additional charges. Durkee had authority over more than 400 bank accounts, including political campaigns.
Durkee is scheduled to appear in Los Angeles federal court Tuesday afternoon.
The complaint said she acknowledged misusing clients' money for years and filing bogus records, and that Durkee told investigators that she was dealing with "personal and business tax problems." She wrote a $50,000 check to the federal government ' an apparent tax payment ' after money was shifted out of Solorio's campaign account, the complaint said.
Other bills apparently covered by funds from Solorio's campaign included payments to online retailer Amazon.com, air travel and cosmetics.
In October, Durkee filed a report with state regulators affirming Solorio's campaign had $729,135 in the bank, when bank records revealed the balance was $33,175. The report, signed by Durkee, did not disclose two checks written off the account, for $300,000 and $377,181.
Investigators found funds from those checks were used for other purposes, including paying employees at her company and shifting money to at least three congressional campaigns.
Bill Carrick, a longtime Feinstein media consultant, said the arrest came as a surprise. Durkee "had a good reputation for somebody who could do the basic filing and accounting functions for a campaign," he said.
Durkee's Burbank office did not immediately respond to a phone message left Tuesday.