A federal judge sentenced former state Sen. Rick Brinkley to 37 months in prison Friday on charges he embezzled nearly $2 million from the Tulsa Better Business Bureau.
Defense attorneys asked for probation, saying Brinkley’s gambling problem drove him to take the money. His lawyers called an expert to testify that prison is not the place for a compulsive gambler. Brinkley, who had nearly two dozen supporters in the courtroom, has completed an inpatient treatment program and calls himself a poster child for gambling addiction. He says casinos were his escape.
“I needed to forget the world. I needed to go someplace where no one knew me and that I could not have anyone ask me any questions, and what happened was it was a good place to escape,” Brinkley said. “And then it became an addiction.”
Prosecutors had asked for a 57-month sentence. U.S. Attorney Danny Williams says his office wanted people to know Brinkley would be held accountable.
“That was an issue that was kind of permeating this case, was would he be held accountable,” Williams said. “We did believe that part of that accountability was going to be some time incarcerated.”
Brinkley was also given three years of supervised release, and must pay back the $1.8 million in embezzled funds. He also owes the Internal Revenue Service $165,000 for not reporting that money as income on his tax return.
“It’s not acceptable for someone to help themselves to other people’s money and violate their trust. If they do, they will be held accountable,” said IRS special agent Kelly Carpenter. “It doesn’t matter what their position is in the community, even if you are a political official.”