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Burbank accountant accused of stealing from assemblyman's campaign fund

September 6, 2011 | 12:22 pm

Photo: California Assemblyman Jose Solorio. Credit: Los Angeles Times A Burbank accountant who has worked as a campaign treasurer for many prominent California Democrats is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the election fund of Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), according to a criminal complaint released Tuesday.

Kinde Durkee, head of Durkee & Associates, was arrested Friday afternoon at her firm's Burbank office on a federal charge of mail fraud. She remained in custody awaiting her scheduled first court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles.

According to an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint, Durkee took money from her clients' bank accounts and filed false campaign reports to cover up her actions.

When interviewed by FBI agents, Durkee "admitted that she had been misappropriating her clients' money for years and that the forms she filed with the state were false," the affadavit says.

The mail fraud charge stems from the alleged filing of falsified campaign reports. Prosecutors allege that Durkee transferred money from her clients’ accounts to pay her own business and personal expenses, including mortgage and credit card payments.

Durkee has served as treasurer of campaign committees for federal, state and local candidates, with clients including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, many state legislators and several Los Angeles City Council members.

The complaint alleges that on two separate occasions in 2010, Durkee transferred funds totaling $677,181 from an account belonging to the Solorio for Assembly 2010 committee to Durkee & Associates business accounts without Solorio's permission or knowledge.

The withdrawals were not reported on disclosure forms filed with the state.

Among other expenditures, more than $30,000 of that money went to pay for payroll expenses for Durkee & Associates, the complaint alleged.

An additional $17,533 went to pay American Express bills that included charges at Baskin Robbins and a Disneyland restaurant and the purchase of Amazon.com gift cards, while $4,950 went to help pay expenses for Durkee’s mother at an assisted living facility.

Solorio issued a brief statement Sunday with the subject line "I've been robbed."

The assemblyman said 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."

Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento, said the case may widen to include activity involving the accounts of Durkee’s other clients. Horwood said she could not say how many other clients might be victims.

The FBI investigation began with a referral from the Fair Political Practices Commission, which investigated Durkee.


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Photo: California Assemblyman Jose Solorio issued a statement saying "I've been robbed" after a criminal charge was filed against his campaign treasurer. Credit: Los Angeles Times