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Campaign treasurer jailed on mail fraud charge

September 4, 2011 |  1:08 pm

A federal fraud charge against a Burbank accountant who has served as treasurer on hundreds of political campaigns centers on her work for a California state Assembly member, authorities said Sunday.

Kinde Durkee was arrested Friday afternoon at the office of her firm, Durkee & Associates in Burbank, and is charged with one count of mail fraud, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. The arrest was first reported by the Orange County Register.

Durkee is scheduled to appear in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The prosecution's complaint against her "focuses on transactions involving the account of a single member of the Assembly, but our investigation is continuing," said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. The complaint itself hasn't been released.

Horwood declined to identify the Assembly member whose account was allegedly involved or the period of time during which the conduct allegedly took place.

Durkee has served as campaign treasurer on hundreds of federal, state and local political campaigns, including those of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a number of California state legislators and Los Angeles City Council members.    

State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) said the FBI notified him of the arrest Friday evening and told him his campaign fund might have been the victim of embezzlement of a “substantial amount” of funds, possibly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Correa said the phone call Friday was his first indication that there were any potential issues with Durkee, whose services he has used for more than 15 years. “At first I thought it was some kind of sick joke,” he said.

Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine said Durkee has worked for his campaign committees for more than 15 years as well and that, until recently, he had experienced no issues. He recalled that after finding an erroneous expenditure -- for about $1,000 in printing costs -- on one of his campaign forms a couple of months ago, he contacted Durkee and she immediately admitted it was an error.

Zine, who said he had not been contacted by investigators, said he would undertake an audit of his campaign records to look for questionable charges.

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-- Abby Sewell

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