LOS ANGELES (CN) - Four California lawmakers claim in Superior Court that First California Bank helped campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee siphon more than $1 million from their accounts.
Durkee, once a respected treasurer for dozens of political campaigns, was arrested on Sept. 2, 2011 in Burbank, on charges that she embezzled millions in campaign contributions.
The treasurer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's campaign fund promptly suedDurkee and First California Bank.
This week, campaign committees for Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, Loretta Sanchez, her sister Linda Sanchez and Congresswoman Susan Davis filed similar complaints in Superior Court.
Durkee and her firm, Durkee & Associates (D&A) were assisted by First California Bank which "was at the heart of the illegal transfer of money out of plaintiffs' accounts" according to Correa's complaint.
Durkee is accused of stealing money to pay her personal credit card bills and business expenses, and to reimburse other campaign accounts from which she embezzled.
Named as defendants in the new complaints are First California Bank, Durkee & Associates, Durkee, and her husband John Forgy.
"Despite knowledge of this pervasive pattern of misconduct, First California Bank continued to provide banking services to Durkee and Durkee & Associates LLC for many years, happy to collect the fees and interest generated by the scores of accounts Durkee maintained at the Bank. Investigation will reveal other professionals, including attorneys accountants and additional banks, had full knowledge of the wrongful acts committed by D&A and the individuals," Correa's complaint states.
Durkee is accused of embezzling from Correa's campaign fund for his 2010 run for state Senate, re-election accounts for Linda Sanchez, and the Susan Davis' campaign committee for Congress.
Durkee's fraud was conducted through a single First California branch in Los Angeles, according to Correa's complaint.
First California "intentionally ignored dozens of red flags," including evidence of unusual and suspicious transfer activity, the Correa complaint states.
"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. Durkee ensured the branch's cooperation by lavishing the bank with profits," the complaint states.
It adds: "For years, Durkee and others took advantage of their positions of trust they were privileged to hold to secretly siphon off money that was intended to support causes that are important to the American people. In the wake of this massive fraud, investigators are still working to determine the full extent of the harm inflicted by the defendants on the accounts of Senator Lou Correa and many other entities, including numerous non-profit organizations."
The plaintiffs seek compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages for fraud and deceit, conversion, breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, aiding and abetting, aiding and abetting conversion, and violations of the Business and Professions Code.
They are represented by Wylie Aitken with Aitken Aitken Cohn, of Santa Ana.
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