SACRAMENTO — Federal prosecutors on Monday recommended an eight-year sentence for a California campaign treasurer who pleaded guilty to defrauding at least $7 million from Democratic politicians.
Kinde Durkee is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. She pleaded guilty in March to five counts of mail fraud.
Her plea deal called for a sentence of 11 to 14 years, but the U.S. Attorney's office is recommending a little more than eight years. If the judge agrees, Durkee would have to serve six years and 10 months before she is eligible for parole.
A message left for her attorney, Daniel Nixon, was not immediately returned.
Despite the loss of campaign money, Democrats in California this year added congressional seats, reached supermajorities in the Legislature and re-elected U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein said she lost $4.5 million.
The California Democratic Party uses an in-house reporting team for campaign donations and spending and was not affected by Durkee's actions, party spokesman Tenoch Flores said.
Prosecutors say Durkee, 59, ran a complex shell game from her Burbank office in which she shifted millions of dollars between bank accounts for politicians, community groups, personal accounts and those of her business, Durkee & Associates.
In March, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner called Durkee "the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers," referring to the infamous New York financial manager who pleaded guilty to operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
Over a 12-year period, Durkee used the millions of misappropriated dollars for her personal and business expenses, and hid the theft by preparing false campaign disclosure reports, prosecutors said in their pre-sentencing report.
"This sentence will reflect the seriousness of the offense, provide just punishment, and afford adequate deterrence," they said.
The prospects for most victims recovering their money are slim, but a restitution figure is expected to be set at the time of sentencing.
Durkee and her husband, John Forgy, have agreed to forfeit the Burbank office from which she operated and to hand over her 401(k) retirement account, estimated to be valued between $100,000 and $120,000.
Prosecutors say Durkee used some of the money to pay mortgages on her home and business, various business expenses and her mother's care in a home for seniors.
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