Feds seek eight years for campaign embezzler

Federal prosecutors say Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee should serve eight years and one month in federal prison for having embezzled more than $7 million from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other prominent California elected officials.

Durkee, 59, of Long Beach, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Sacramento.

“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,” says the sentencing memo prosecutors filed last Wednesday. “This sentence will reflect the seriousness of the offense, provide just punishment, and afford adequate deterrence.”

A restitution figure should be ready by Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors wrote.

Durkee pleaded guilty earlier this year to five counts of mail fraud. Her plea agreement noted that the sentencing range would be from 11 years and three months to 14 years, but also that prosecutors would recommend the low end of whatever range federal probation officers came up with.

Besides Feinstein’s campaign, other victims included the campaigns of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos; state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana; and Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim. There were at least 50 victims in all, prosecutors said.


Adios, Blago: Ex-Illinois governor gets 14 years

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced today to 14 years in federal prison after his convictions on 18 felony corruption counts including his 2008 effort to illegally trade an appointment to Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat for campaign money or other benefits.

Blagojevich was also sentenced for shaking down the chief executive of a children’s hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for implementing an increase to pediatric reimbursement rates; holding up the signing of a bill to benefit the Illinois horse racing industry in an attempt to illegally obtain $100,000 in campaign contributions; and lying to the FBI in 2005.

The government wanted the judge to give Blagojevich 15 to 20 years behind bars, but the judge went a little lower after finding the ex-governor accepted responsibility for his crimes. (He did? Maybe he should update his website.) Blagojevich, who’ll turn 55 on Saturday, is scheduled to start serving his sentence Feb. 16.

My favorite line from the federal prosecutors’ news release: “The prison term is the longest-ever imposed on a former governor in the Northern District of Illinois.”

Because they’re in the habit of nailing the state’s former governors, y’know. George Ryan got six-and-a-half years in his corruption case; he’s scheduled to get out of the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., on July 4, 2013. (How patriotic!)


Oakland group decries 24-hr youth prison lockups

An Oakland-based human rights nonprofit is waging an online drive urging California’s Division of Juvenile Justice to immediately stop extensive isolation of youth prisoners.

A declaration filed May 24 in an Alameda County Superior Court lawsuit regarding conditions at DJJ prisons included documentation that some youth inmates aren’t receiving the minimum three hours per day of out-of-room time that they should.

“(T)he most frequent failure to meet out-of-room requirements has occurred at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility,” Nancy Campbell, a court-appointed special master in the case, wrote in a May 20 memo. “In the 14 weeks documented, there were 173 out of 1,453 incidents during which youth on TD (temporary detention) or TIP (temporary intervention plans) spent more than 21 of 24 hours confined to his or her rooms. Other DJJ facilities struggle to meet mandated services requirements as well.”

More than a dozen members of Books Not Bars, a campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, have children who have spent 23-plus hours a day locked up in cold cells with little human contact and zero programming.

“The DJJ abuses my son by keeping him in solitary confinement. The last time I saw him, he had bruises on his face and he couldn’t hold a conversation with me. How could they do this to our children?” Books Not Bars member Maria Sanchaz said in a news release; her son is locked up in the Ventura facility.

Books not Bars says the special master’s report also indicates DJJ is failing to provide youth inmates with the minimum education required every day and, due to high levels of institutional violence, is canceling medical appointments without rescheduling them.

“The use of solitary confinement is one of the most egregious violations we’ve seen from California Division of Juvenile Justice,” Ella Baker Center Executive Director Jakada Imani said in a news release. “Extensive isolation amounts to torture and trauma for our youth- the exact opposite of the rehabilitation the DJJ is tasked with providing. Californians should be outraged that Secretary Matthew Cate is allowing this dangerous and abusive practice to persist.”

This video posted last year by DJJ paints a rosier picture of life at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, and includes some views of the youth inmates’ rooms:


2003 recall candidate convicted of bank fraud

A federal jury has convicted a North Bay businessman of bank fraud and other crimes he committed even at the same time that he was running as a candidate in 2003’s gubernatorial recall election.

Ned RoscoeNed Roscoe, 51, of Fairfield, a former owner and officer of Cigarettes Cheaper!, was convicted yesterday of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to make false statements to Comerica Bank, 13 counts of bank fraud, and 14 counts of false statements to a bank, federal prosecutors said.

Roscoe is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald White on June 6 in San Jose; the crimes of which he was convicted carry penalties that could add up to decades in federal prison and millions in fines, plus restitution.

Cigarettes Cheaper!, based in Benicia, at its peak had almost 800 retail stores nationwide and $1 billion in annual revenue. After a month-long trial, jurors concluded that Roscoe from August through November 2003 directed company accountants to inflate the company’s weekly borrowing base reports of inventory submitted to Comerica Bank, eventually inflating the value of the company’s inventory by more than $16 million. He did so to get more money from Comerica through Cigarettes Cheaper!’s $21 million line of credit and to avoid a pay-down on another, $10.7 million credit line.

The jury also agreed that evidence showed that Ned Roscoe and his father, John Roscoe, 81, of Green Valley, conspired to defraud Comerica Bank and make false statements to the bank. And Ned Roscoe directed a company accountant to falsely inform Comerica Bank in late November 2003 that the cause of the $16 million in inflated inventory was due to clerical or accounting errors.

Ned and John Roscoe first were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2007, and a second, superseding indictment containing the counts that actually went to trial was handed up last September. John Roscoe pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count in January; his sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Ned Roscoe ran as a Libertarian in the October 2003 race to oust and replace Gov. Gray Davis. In a blog he maintained at the time, he said he was counting on the support of “this political base, formed first of smokers with many different political persuasions, united in the belief that we must respect the freedoms of others in order to have freedoms of our own, combined with others seeking sensible, realistic actions by a new Governor.”

“I am optimistic, with the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces,” he wrote. “Government isn’t like business. Good government needs consensus. I can work with Legislators and officials to decide rapidly and to do what makes sense quickly. My sense of urgency comes from having customers to serve and bills to pay. My top priority is to improve the prosperity of workers without expanding the burden of government. That is, to do the decent thing.”

He finished 34th in a field of 135, earning 2,250 votes (about .02 percent of all those cast).


Former CA House candidate sentenced to prison

A former Congressional candidate from Southern California was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for obstructing justice by lying about a letter sent to Latino voters during his campaign, federal prosecutors said.

Tan Nguyen (AP photo)Tan Nguyen, 35, of Oceanside, was convicted last year; in addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David Carter also sentenced him to serve six months at a halfway house. He must surrender to start serving his sentence by March 28.

A federal jury in December found Nguyen had lied to state investigators who were probing complaints from Latino voters in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County, where Nguyen in 2006 was the Republican nominee who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove.

About 14,000 voters in the district had received a letter in Spanish that made claims about who was eligible to vote and what would happen to immigrant voters if they cast ballots; the letter had gone out on letterhead similar to that of an anti-illegal immigration group, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which actually had nothing to do with the letter.

Nguyen, interviewed by investigators in October 2006, falsely stated that campaign volunteers created the letter without his knowledge, prosecutors said. A federal grand jury handed up an indictment in October 2008.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the voting rights of all individuals. We simply will not tolerate those who attempt to interfere with efforts to enforce civil rights laws in our nation,” Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release.

In a sentencing memo filed Feb. 5, Nguyen’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, had argued his client shouldn’t have to serve any time behind bars.

“Without question, Tan Nguyen’s reputation took a heavy strike in the indictment, trials and conviction herein,” Steward wrote. “As a public figure, well known in the Vietnamese community and the community in general, such a hit will remove him from politics and many other endeavors for life.”


FPPC to sue prison health-care receiver?

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission will consider this Thursday whether to sue Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate, court-appointed prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso and others to force them to adopt a conflict-of-interest code for receivership workers.

J. Clark Kelso Kelso runs the prison health care system at the behest of Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who found years ago that California had failed to clean up decades-old neglect and abuse that amounted to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. As a judicially appointed overseer, the receiver has resisted state regulation and oversight lest his efforts get bogged down in the very bureaucracy it was intended to bypass; he files detailed reports on his work to Henderson periodically, even as he’s gotten into a series of dustups with state officials over the limits of his authority.

But the FPPC is responsible for making sure all agencies in California have conflict-of-interest codes defining which of their employees must file the “Form 700” statement of economic interests, and how much must be disclosed on that form. State law requires this so decision-makers aren’t affected by personal interests when they make public policy.

Irrestistable force, meet immovable object. Lawsuit time!

The FPPC is scheduled to take up the matter in closed session after its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday; FPPC executive director Roman Porter told me today there’s no other publicly available information on this. The FPPC doesn’t usually sue until behind-the-scenes negotiation has proved fruitless; Porter won’t say, and I’m awaiting a callback from Luis Patino, Kelso’s spokesman.

UPDATE @ 4:29 p.m.: Kelso’s office says most receivership staffers already file Form 700, but this dispute was over a Construction Oversight Advisory Board and a Rehabilitation Services Advisory Council – the former of which met twice, the latter never – which since have been disbanded, rendering any potential litigation moot. Read Kelso’s verbatim statement, and the FPPC’s reaction, after the jump…
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