TULSA, OK – State Sen. Rick Brinkley plead guilty Thursday to five counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion and resigned from the Legislature, effective immediately.
Brinkley agreed to pay $1,829,033 in restitution to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Tulsa and $165,625 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in unpaid taxes.
U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan scheduled Brinkley’s sentencing for November 20. Prosecutors state that he could be sentenced to as much as 37 months in federal prison under sentencing guidelines.
Brinkley was charged on Wednesday with five wire fraud counts and one tax evasion count.
In court Brinkley admitted that he stole the money, while he was employed at the BBB, for his own personal spending.
Mack Martin, Brinkley’s defense attorney, stated that he had completed a 60 day impatient treatment program for his gambling addiction and is participating in Gamblers Anonymous. Prosecutors said that Brinkley used some of the money that he had stolen to fund his gambling habits.
At a news conference outside of the courthouse to announce the charges, U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. said, “He liked casinos.”
Last Friday Brinkley had submitted a letter stating that he would resign and that it would not be effective until December 31.
However in a resignation letter to Secretary of State Chris Benge on Thursday, Brinkley, Owasso-34 (R), said:
“Due to personal reasons, I hereby irrevocably resign my office as state senator for District 34 effective immediately…”
Governor Mary Fallin on Monday of last week had set November 10 for a special primary election and January 12, 2016 for the general election to replace state Sen. Rick Brinkley.
The filing period is set for August 31 through September 2.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began an inquiry back on January 22 into accusations Brinkley embezzled from the BBB of Tulsa at the request of Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. Brinkley had denied wrongdoing.
The BBB of Tulsa filed a civil suit against Brinkley on June 5 alleging that as an executive with the organization he embezzled more than $1.8 million over 15 years. The civil case is pending in Tulsa County District Court.
The organization alleged that he used its money to pay “his mortgage, pool cleaner, personal credit card invoices, and to support a hidden gambling habit.”
The BBB’s board of directors voted unanimously in April to fire him, notifying him April 26.
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted on June 12 to open an investigation involving his campaign filings for the past three years.
A January 7 entry on Brinkley’s campaign report filed with the Ethics Commission indicates that he erroneously used his campaign account to write the Better Business Bureau a check for $49,693.94 and then repaid the fund from his personal account.
Brinkley agreed Friday to pay a civil penalty to the state to settle the ethics matter. He forfeited his remaining campaign funds of $81,265. The check was delivered to the Ethics Commission on Wednesday.
Brinkley, 54, has been a state senator since November 2010. He had been expected to become the next leader of the Oklahoma Senate.