Oklahoma Senator Admits Fraud, Resigns

     TULSA (CN) – An Oklahoma state senator resigned Thursday after he admitted he stole $1.8 million while leading the Better Business Bureau, and filed a false tax return.
     Ricky L. Brinkley, 54, of Owasso, pleaded guilty to five federal counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return, and immediately resigned as senator for the 34th District, which includes Tulsa.
     Brinkley most recently served as chairman of the Committee of Pensions and vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
     Between November 2005 and February 2015, he diverted more than $1.2 million while serving as BBB’s president and chief executive officer and later as chief operating officer, the 6-page criminal information states.
     Brinkley would “create fraudulent invoices for services not rendered and represent those invoices as legitimate” expenses, prosecutors said.
     “He also admitted that he fraudulently signed checks, transferred, used, and disbursed BBB funds to pay personal expenses and debts including mortgage payments, expenses for pool cleaning services at his home, and his personal American Express, Discover, and Visa cards,” prosecutors said in a statement after the plea.
     “Brinkley further admitted that he used BBB’s credit card to make cash withdrawals at automated teller machines located within casinos to support his gambling habit and that he would also create and process for payment false invoices using BBB’s funds for payment.”
     Brinkley will be sentenced on Nov. 20, U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams told reporters outside the courthouse. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or double the losses caused by his wire fraud.
     He faces up to 3 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the false tax return charge, and agreed to forfeit $1.82 million in proceeds from the scheme.
     Williams blasted Brinkley for “abusing the trust” of BBB’s board, business members and consumers.
     “BBB has worked with federal and state agencies by identifying the diverted funds,” Williams said in a statement. “I hope this investigation and conviction is a step towards strengthening the trust of BBB members and consumers, and will allow BBB to continue to provide valuable services to the community.”
     Williams said Brinkley spent the money “to pay mortgages, to help fund a gambling addiction” and for personal expenses.
     “The investigation showed that Brinkley accumulated over a 10-year period over $300,000 in American Express bills, another $146,000 in Visa bills and an additional $150,000 in [other] credit card bills,” Williams said. “He was basically living off the money at the time.”
     Williams anticipates Brinkley’s attorney, Mack Martin in Oklahoma City, will ask for a downward adjustment of federal sentencing guidelines in place.
     “We preliminarily calculate the guidelines to be between 26 and 37 months and I’m sure he’s going to ask for less time,” Williams said.
     Flanked by his wife, Brinkley did not comment as he left the courthouse. Martin declined to comment as he accompanied Brinkley to his car.

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