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Feds: Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee defrauded dozens out of $7M

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee defrauded at least 50 candidates, officeholders and political organizations out of $7 million in a scheme that dates back more than a decade, according to a court filing made Tuesday by federal prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento filed the additional charges in federal court, providing the most detailed account to date in a case that has left some Democratic candidates scrambling for campaign cash in an election year.

Such filings typically are a prelude to a plea, but prosecutors would not confirm such a development or offer any further details.

Durkee, who heads Durkee & Associates in Burbank, was arrested in September and charged with suspicion of mail fraud after millions of dollars disappeared from the campaign accounts of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, other Democratic members of Congress and several Democratic state lawmakers.

The filing details a complex shell game in which Durkee shifted campaign money to cover an array of personal and business expenses.

Disneyland bills
In one example, $23,000 taken from Feinstein's account was used to help pay American Express credit card charges from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Amazon.com, Disneyland, Trader Joe's and Turners Outdoorsman.

Other misappropriations from Feinstein's account covered payments for a Long Beach condominium owned by Durkee and to the 401(k) plan for her employees.

The court filing said Durkee had devised a scheme from January 2000 until she was arrested last September "to defraud clients of Durkee & Associates, and to obtain money from them by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises."

It said she had signature control over roughly 700 bank accounts, including those used by political campaigns.

Durkee's attorney, Daniel Nixon, did not return telephone and email messages Tuesday evening.

Durkee was scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon at a hearing that had been set before Tuesday's developments.

Political treasurer Kinde Durkee is accused of stealing money from California campaigns for personal use. Political attorney Bob Bauer joins Chuck to explain the legal issues.

She has been accused of looting the accounts of dozens of Democratic officeholders, candidates and political organizations. Prosecutors also say Durkee filed false information with the Federal Election Commission and the California Secretary of State, which track campaign contributions and expenditures.

Feinstein alone estimated that she may have lost $5 million, but there has been no firm accounting of the losses because the money has been so difficult to track.

The fraud investigation froze the coffers of dozens of Democratic politicians across the state of California during an election year, and left candidates scrambling to raise more money.

In a separate order filed Monday, the U.S. attorney's office and Durkee agreed to a forfeiture auction of her Burbank home, which it says she owns with her husband, John Forgy. The couple owes $671,000 on the house, as well as $17,471 in state tax liens, according to the filing.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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