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California

Political treasurer to plead guilty to mail fraud, sources say

SACRAMENTO —Political treasurer Kinde Durkee is expected to plead guilty to mail fraud charges and could face up to 12 years in prison for allegedly pilfering more than $7 million from at least 50 candidates and nonprofit groups, according to people close to the case.

Durkee is scheduled to appear Friday in federal court in Sacramento to face five counts of mail fraud involving the misuse of campaign accounts for clients including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Federal prosecutors have approved a plea agreement in which they will recommend that the judge consider a sentencing range of 8 to 12 years, said people with knowledge of the deal. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The maximum sentence for one count of mail fraud is 20 years, and sentences are usually served concurrently if there is more than one count, according to Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento.

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State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), who allegedly lost campaign funds to Durkee, said he was “saddened” that the recommended sentence is not longer. “I’m shocked, given the severity of the crime, that it’s 8 to 12 years.” A judge could still impose a longer term, officials said.

Prosecutors say Durkee took money from dozens of campaign accounts, including those of Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood) and Susan A. Davis (D-San Diego).

Court papers allege that Durkee used the money for her business payroll and to pay the mortgage on her house and office, medical costs and credit card charges at Disneyland, Baskin-Robbins, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and the Ariel’s Grotto restaurant at the Disneyland Resort.

“Kinde Durkee routinely misappropriated client funds by moving without authorization substantial sums of money out of client accounts, including political campaign accounts, into Durkee and Associates’ or into other clients’ accounts,” says the court filing by Assistant U.S. Atty. John K. Vincent.

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Although the candidates hope to get restitution, Durkee’s ability to pay back the money will be “extremely limited,” predicted Wylie Aitken, an attorney for Davis, Correa and the Sanchez sisters.

Durkee and her husband, John Forgy, have agreed with federal officials to the forfeiture sale of their business office in Burbank, with the money to be held for disbursement by the court, according to one filing. The couple owe $660,000 on the mortgage and face $17,000 in tax liens on the property, the document says.

Durkee was arrested Sept. 2 and originally charged with one count of mail fraud in a case alleging that in 2010 she misused $677,000 from the campaign account of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana).

Daniel Nixon, an attorney for Durkee, did not respond to a phone call and email for comment.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

richard.simon@latimes.com

McGreevy reported from Sacramento and Simon from Washington.


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