Update: 6:30 p.m.: Sen. Ted Lieu "astounded" by the scale of the alleged crime. Earlier: Durkee appears in court. The L.A. County Democratic Party may also have been victimized. More below.
The local political world was roiled over the weekend with the news that Kinde Durkee, a prominent campaign treasurer, has been accused of fraud.
We're learning more today, and it looks like this one's a doozy. According to the complaint (posted below), Durkee admitted to the FBI that "she has been misappropriating her clients' money for years."
The complaint alleges that Durkee defrauded Jose Solorio, an Assemblyman from Orange County. According to the document, Durkee used campaign funds to pay her employees, her personal taxes, and even her credit card bills.
One such bill covered expenses including cosmetics, plane tickets, gas, Amazon gift cards, a visit to Baskin Robbins, and a trip to Ariel's Grotto at Disneyland. Durkee also (allegedly) used Solorio's campaign money to pay for her mother's nursing home.
Durkee admitted to the FBI that she had "personal and business tax problems," according to the complaint, and that she used her business account "to pay for her daily living expenses, including food, entertainment and mortgages."
Durkee also, allegedly, filed false campaign statements for Solorio, failing to note that she had withdrawn two cashier's checks worth a total of $677,000 from his account. Solorio told the FBI he had never authorized those withdrawals.
Solorio sent an e-mail to supporters saying "I've been robbed." He explained that he hired Durkee "because she was regarded as a highly respected professional, and for decades, the treasurer for the campaigns of many prominent elected officials in the state."
Durkee is based in Burbank and had many local clients, including the L.A. County Democratic Party, Councilman Paul Krekorian, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, and Sen. Ted Lieu.
Some consultants, however, say they warned their candidates away from Durkee due to a history of errors and FPPC violations.
The Fair Political Practices Commission referred the case to the FBI in 2010, when their investigators suspected she had misappropriated money from clients' accounts and filed false disclosure statements to cover it up.
Durkee is expected to appear for an arraignment this afternoon.
Update, 4:05 p.m.: Durkee appeared in federal court this afternoon. She was shackled by the hands and feet, and appeared at one point to wipe a tear from her eye. A bail hearing was set for Friday.
For now, she is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center. Her attorney, Daniel Nixon, said the case would be transferred to Sacramento, and that she will plead not guilty at some point.
Meanwhile, Eric Bauman, the chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, said that he was "trying to ascertain what our balances really are." Bauman said that a party official had tried calling the bank, but was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Candidates are no doubt doing the same thing.
Update 2, 6:30 p.m.: Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, was also trying to determine his account balance today. "I am astounded by the scale of the alleged fraud, and just how brazen it was," he said. "This is one of the most heavily regulated areas of the law. I don't understand how she thought she could get away with this."
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