TULSA, OK – A judge sentenced former Sen. Rick Brinkley, Owasso-34 (R) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) CEO to prison on Friday.
Brinkley had pleaded guilty in August 2015 to five counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion and resigned from the Legislature. Documents showed Brinkley stole more than $1.8 million from the BBB.
Prosecutors said that Brinkley wrote checks from the BBB’s account to himself, then either cashed them or used them to pay off his credit cards. They said he also spend the money at casinos in Oklahoma and in Las Vegas, NV.
In court on Friday, Brinkley said, “What began as an escape became an addiction and ultimately my downfall.” He then apologized to the BBB and his family.
Brinkley and his attorneys had asked that his addiction and his cooperation with prosecutors be taken into consideration for sentencing. His lead defense attorney Mack Martin asked for probation, arguing it would better enable Brinkley to start paying restitution.
U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan said Brinkley deserved a slight variation from the federal sentencing guidelines, but that prison time was called for.
Eagan ordered Brinkley to serve 37 months in prison for five counts of wire fraud and 36 months for signing a false tax return, but will serve the two sentences concurrently. He was released on his own recognizance and will report to federal prison on April 14, 2016.
Brinkley was also ordered by the judge to repay the BBB about $1.83 million, and to pay the IRS $165,000 in tax, fines and penalties.
In a statement submitted to the court by the victims, the BBB in this case, stated Brinkley’s crime cost it more than just the money. The organization lost 500 members and the public’s trust because of his crime. The BBB has filed a civil suit against Brinkley. Because of that case, current President and CEO Amie Mitchell said, the BBB would not comment on Brinkley’s sentence.
Brinkley’s Owasso home and almost all of his other assets have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for restitution purposes, but the amount realized is not expected to be enough to pay all the money he owes.
Brinkley spoke to the press after he was sentenced and said he began going to the casinos as an escape and became addicted before he realize it. He has undergone more than a month of in-patient addiction treatment and become involved in counseling other gambling addicts.
Brinkley, 54, had been a state senator from November 2010 till he resigned August 2015. He had been expected to become the next leader of the Oklahoma Senate until the scandal began to unwind last spring. His resignation became the first in a series of circumstances leading to Oklahoma Senate District 34 electing a Democrat, Owasso educator J.J. Dossett, to the state Senate for the first time in more than 20 years.
“I don’t think anyone who knew me would have thought I would be in this position right now,” Brinkley said. “I can’t believe it myself.”