Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding her clients of at least $7 million, bringing to a close a case that one official has called the "most extensive campaign treasurer fraud in the history of California."
Durkee entered guilty pleas to five counts of mail fraud at the Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse in Sacramento this morning before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J Mueller. Federal prosecutors say the veteran campaign treasurer misappropriated money from the accounts of at least 50 clients, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Durkee, 59, remains free pending sentencing on June 20. She likely faces 11 to 14 years in prison.
A document filed with the court this week said she siphoned millions from her clients' accounts to cover business expenses such as payroll for her Burbank firm, Durkee & Associates, provide care and services for her elderly mother and pay personal credit card bills. She also transferred money between accounts to try to the hide the embezzlement from clients and investigators.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Friday that he thinks the losses will total $9 to $10 million in what is believed to be the largest embezzlement by a campaign treasurer ever prosecuted.
Durkee declined to speak to reporters through her attorney, Daniel Nixon. Nixon described his client's state of mind as "very remorseful." He declined to comment on her motives or what she did with the money, saying only that more details could come out at the sentencing later this year.
"She's accepting full responsibility for her actions and she has come to court today to acknowledge what she's done," he told reporters after appearing in court.
Durkee, who ran the Burbank-based Durkee & Associates, was arrested in September on suspicion of committing mail fraud by submitting falsified campaign finance reports to elections officials. The investigation was sparked by irregularities uncovered during a Fair Political Practices Commission audit.
Despite a history of fines for campaign disclosure violations issued by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Durkee maintained a client list that included some of California's most prominent Democratic politicians, political organizations and nonprofits.
Several clients, including Feinstein, have sued Durkee and the bank where their assets were held in hopes of recouping some of the lost money.
Updated charges filed against California treasurer Kinde Durkee
Dianne Feinstein suing bank over Kinde Durkee scandal
Kinde Durkee's clients include nonprofits with political ties
Affidavit: FPPC alerted FBI after its own Kinde Durkee inquiry
Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:36 p.m. with comments from Durkee attorney Daniel Nixon