TULSA, Okla.—Oklahoma State Senator Ricky L. Brinkley pleaded guilty Thursday to fraudulently obtaining more than $1.2 million dollars from the Better Business Bureau and subscribing to a false tax return.
Brinkley, 54, of Owasso, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Claire V. Eagan to five counts of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return. Sentencing is scheduled on November 20, 2015. Brinkley represents the 34th District, including Owasso, Collinsville, Skiatook, Sperry, Turley, and Tulsa.
From August 2, 1999, to April 26, 2015, Brinkley served as the president and Chief Executive Officer and then the Chief Operations Officer of the Better Business Bureau. During his employment, Brinkley was responsible for the operation, accounting and financial management including paying bills and signing checks on behalf of the BBB.
According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, from November 2005 to February 2015, Brinkley diverted more than $1.2 million dollars from the BBB through the creation of fraudulent invoices for services not rendered, and improperly represented these invoices as reimbursement for legitimate BBB expenses.
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. 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. The United States believes the loss amount is closer to $1.8 million. Final loss and restitution amounts will be determined prior to sentencing.
In addition to the fraudulent diversion of funds from the BBB, Brinkley admitted that he failed to report the money and funds on his federal tax return and that he subscribed a false tax return for tax year 2013 by failing to report approximately $148,390 in income.
United States Attorney Williams stated that, "non-profit organizations such as the BBB provide the community with resources to make informed decisions in the marketplace. The BBB's vision is 'an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other.' Brinkley has abused the trust of the BBB board, its business members, marketplace consumers, and the trust the public has placed in him. BBB has worked with federal and state agencies by identifying the diverted funds. 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."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Cruse stated that, "criminal investigations against those holding positions of public trust are never easy, but they are among some of the most important cases that we do in the FBI. That is because we hold our public servants to a higher standard. Our citizens expect their public servants to uphold the law in all aspects of their lives, whether it be in connection with their public responsibilities or in their personal endeavors. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively target those entrusted by organizations to manage their funds who choose to exploit this trust for their personal gain."
IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Branch stated that, "although the BBB emphasizes high ethical standards, honesty and legal compliance for themselves and their business partners, Mr. Brinkley chose to violate each of these tenets by conducting himself in a financially irresponsible manner. Filing a false income tax return is totally unfair to those American citizens who file accurate tax returns, and is inconsistent with his background as a public servant. However, the public can be confident in the fact that IRS-Criminal Investigation pursues justice on their behalf in seeking prosecution of anyone, regardless of status, who violates the tax laws."
"Late last year, OSBI developed information indicating potential crimes were committed from within the Tulsa BBB. Once OSBI opened a criminal investigation at the request of Tulsa County D.A. Steve Kunzweiler, it became apparent federal laws may also have been broken. OSBI appreciates the FBI and IRS's willingness to work with OSBI agents to ensure justice, both on the federal and state levels, is served," OSBI Director Stan Florence said.
Brinkley faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the pecuniary gain/loss caused by the defendant's acts for the wire fraud charges; and the maximum penalty is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the filing of a false tax return. Brinkley has also agreed to the forfeiture of funds in the amount of $1,829,033.86 representing proceeds of the wire fraud scheme.