Once touted as a future Senate leader, the rest of Rick Brinkley’s fall from grace was swift Thursday, as he stood in front of a federal judge recounting how he stole more than $1.2 million from his former employer, the Better Business Bureau.

Earlier Thursday morning he had resigned his Owasso Senate seat, speeding up a plan to leave in December.

After he was arraigned in federal court, Brinkley pleaded guilty to five counts of federal wire fraud and one count of tax fraud.

“I, Ricky L. Brinkley, admit that beginning in or about 1999, and continuing through February 2015, I defrauded the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa Inc. (BBB) while I was employed as its President and Chief Executive Officer and later as its Chief Operating Officer,” he told U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan.

“I admit that I unlawfully diverted in excess of $1.2 million from BBB through the creation of fraudulent invoices for services not rendered. … I used BBB’s credit card to make cash withdrawals at automated teller machines located within casinos to support my gambling habit.”


Outside the courtroom, his attorney said Brinkley had spent the past two months at an inpatient facility being treated for gambling addiction and was now a member of a gambling addiction support group.

“Mr. Brinkley made his decisions today based upon what he thought was best for his family,” said attorney Mack Martin, following Brinkley’s plea. “We look forward to putting this behind us and getting on with his life.”

Brinkley could face 20 years on each of the five wire fraud counts and three years on a tax evasion count. However, prosecutors said because he struck a plea deal, it is unlikely he will serve that amount of time.

Eagan set a Nov. 20 sentencing date and released Brinkley after he agreed to conditions of supervision.

U.S. Attorney Danny Williams announced the charges in a press conference Thursday before Brinkley’s arraignment.


U.S. Attorney Danny Williams describes charges against Brinkley.

“Non profit organizations such as the BBB provide the community with the resources to make informed decisions in the marketplace. … Mr. Brinkley abused that trust,” Williams said.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, from November 2005 to February 2015, Brinkley diverted in excess of $1.2 million dollars from the BBB by creating fraudulent invoices. He also admitted he fraudulently signed checks and used BBB funds to pay personal expenses including mortgage payments, pool cleaning services at his home, and his personal American Express, Discover, and Visa cards.

Prosecutors said they believe the total loss to the BBB is closer to $1.8 million, adding final loss and restitution amounts will be determined prior to sentencing.

In addition, Brinkley admitted he failed to report the funds on his federal tax return, failing to report approximately $148,390 in income in 2013.

Madie Branch, criminal investigation acting special agent in charge of the IRS’ Dallas office, discussed Brinkley’s tax evasion count.


IRS Special Agent Maddie Branch says Brinkley isn’t above the law.

“The public must have full confidence that no one is above the law when it comes to filing true and accurate tax returns. When anyone violates those standards, honest people fill the void. It appears that Mr. Brinkley chose to violate those rules by conducting himself in a financially irresponsible manner.”

Stan Florence, director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said the agency brought information on Brinkley’s possible theft to Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler late last year. He said he and Kunzweiler partnered with federal authorities on the investigation but added, “there is an ongoing investigation on a state level with the OSBI.”

TV, pageants and the ministry

Brinkley led the Tulsa Better Business Bureau for more than a decade before being elected to the state Senate in 2010.

He has a varied past that includes experience in both the secular world of television and pageants as well as serving for eight years as a minister, according to his Linked In profile.

Brinkley spent about 10 years working on air and as a producer at KOTV in Tulsa and WJZ-TV in Baltimore before becoming a producer at the Sally Jesse Raphael talk show.

He then returned to Tulsa to obtain a master’s degree in Christian counseling from Oral Roberts University and served as a minister at Community Church for nine years, according to his Linked In profile.

After leaving the ministry, he took a job in 1999 at the Better Business Bureau, where he was the organization’s leader before he was fired in April. The organization filed a civil suit against him in June, alleging he had embezzled more than $1.8 million.

Beginning in 2005, Brinkley became a judging consultant for the Miss America Pageant, in charge of judging policies and procedures. He served in that role about nine years.

Asked what impact Brinkley’s theft may have had on citizens who seek help from the BBB, Williams said: “When you are short almost $2 million .. at the end of the day it had a trickle down effect that would affect the businesses, the citizens and the employees.”