Eight-year term sought for California campaign treasurer fraud

SACRAMENTO Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:44pm EST

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors are seeking an eight-year prison sentence for a Democratic campaign treasurer accused of draining up to $20 million from the war chests of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and other politicians, court documents showed on Monday.

Kinde Durkee, who controlled the funds of some 400 political candidates and groups, should spend 97 months in federal custody and pay an as-yet undetermined amount of restitution, a sentencing memo by prosecutors said.

Durkee was arrested in September 2011 and charged with criminal mail fraud. She pleaded guilty in March as part of a deal with prosecutors and is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday.

"Over the course of approximately 12 years, the defendant misappropriated millions of dollars from clients, used the money for her personal and business expenses, and prepared false campaign disclosure reports to hide the theft," the memo said.

The arrest of the longtime treasurer for Democratic politicians left the campaigns of a number of elected officials in disarray.

Prosecutors have said in court documents that Durkee used money siphoned from her clients to pay expenses such as the mortgage on her condominium, visits to Disneyland, charges on her credit cards, medical bills and her own firm's business costs.

Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California, has said in documents filed with the Federal Election Commission that she lost at least $4.5 million to Durkee.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, to help make restitution to her former clients, Durkee must sell a property in Burbank, California, that had housed the offices of her now-defunct business, Durkee & Associates.

Prosecutors said they expect to have a final restitution amount by Wednesday's sentencing hearing.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)

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