Durkee Embezzlement Plot Thickens

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – More politicians have joined the list of alleged victims claiming First California Bank helped campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee loot their accounts.
     Durkee, a veteran treasurer for dozens of political campaigns, was arrested just over a year ago in Burbank on charges that she and her husband John Forgy embezzled at least $7 million from close to 50 political clients.
     Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s campaign fund sued Durkee and First California Bank not long after. Earlier this year other campaign committees and politicians filed similar claims with the Superior Court.
     More names were added to the list on Sept. 27, with three new lawsuits making virtually the same claims as the Feinstein campaign fund last year.
     The first lawsuit was filed by Los Angeles County Democrats, the second by a committee for Democratic assemblyman Jose Solorio, and the third by a committee for Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.
     Durkee and her firm, Durkee & Associates (D&A) were helped by a single Los Angeles branch of First California Bank, which “was at the heart of the illegal transfer of money out of plaintiffs’ accounts,” according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee.
     Durkee allegedly stole money to pay her personal credit card bills, her mortgage and business expenses, and to reimburse other campaign accounts from which she embezzled. Alleged victims also say she used the money for trips to Disneyland and for Baskin-Robbins ice cream.
     “Despite knowledge of this pervasive pattern of misconduct, First California Bank continued to provide banking services to Durkee and D&A for many years, happy to collect the fees and interest generated by the scores of accounts Durkee maintained at the bank,” the complaint states. “FCB [First California Bank] made thousands of dollars each month from overdraft charges alone incurred on Durkee’s accounts. Durkee was one of the most prominent clients of the Century Park East branch of First California Bank and the accounts she maintained at the Bank were some of the largest accounts maintained at that branch office. It was therefore critical to the Century Park East branch of FCB to keep Durkee as a client.”
     Durkee is accused of embezzling more than a $100,000 from Los Angeles County Democrats, more than $650,000 from Solorio, and misappropriating a check for roughly $147,000 from one of Foster’s accounts at First California Bank.
     “The staff and managers of that branch knew of Durkee and D&A’s misconduct, yet allowed it to continue, and assisted in it, because the accounts Durkee and D&A handled held millions of dollars and generated thousands of dollars in transaction and overdraft fees for the bank,” the complaint states. “Durkee ensured the branch’s cooperation by lavishing the bank with profits.”
     Durkee pleaded guilty in March to five counts of mail fraud but will have to wait until Oct. 10 for sentencing while prosecutors unravel the scheme and work out the full extent of the fraud.
     First California Bank, Durkee & Associates LLC, Durkee and Forgy are the named defendants in the three complaints that seek punitive damages for fraud, conversion, breach of contract, bad faith and other charges.
     Parties to the first complaint are Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee, Los Angeles County Party Issues & Advocacy Committee, and Los Angeles County Democratic Party State Candidate Committee.
     Jose Solorio Assembly Officeholder Committee, Solorio for Assembly 2010, Solorio for Senate 2014, and Prosperity for California, are plaintiffs in the second complaint.
     Plaintiffs in the third lawsuit are Foster for Treasurer 2014, Mayor Bob Foster Officeholder Committee, and Rebuild Long Beach, Sponsored by Mayor Bob Foster.
     They are represented by Justin Berger with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy of Burlingame, Calif.

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