An Oklahoma state senator stepped down from his post right after pleading guilty to six federal charges.
Rick Brinkley admitted to stealing more than $1.8 million from the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa. He served as CEO and President of the non-profit for 15 years.
Federal prosecutors said Brinkley would withdraw money from the BBB for his own use, including paying off mortgages, credit cards and gambling debts.
The BBB also has a civil suit against Brinkley.
U.S. Attorney, Danny Williams said, "The BBB had raised a tremendous amount of money during this period of time, and Brinkley was telling the sales staff that there was not enough money."
Brinkley’s attorney said he is getting treatment for his gambling addiction.
He’ll be sentenced in November and faces up to 20 years for each of his five wire fraud charges.
Members of the BBB are reacting to Brinkley's admission. They’re concerned his actions will affect the credibility of the organization whose mission is to uncover fraud.
One Tulsa business owner, with an A+ BBB rating, wants Brinkley to pay all the money back. He said he joined the BBB because he believes in what it stands for – holding businesses accountable and helping customers – but said Brinkley did the opposite and now must face the consequences.
Smiling as he left the courthouse Thursday, the former Oklahoma state senator admitted to stealing more than $1.8 million from the BBB of Eastern Oklahoma during his 15 years as President and CEO.
FBI investigators said Brinkley used BBB money to gamble in Oklahoma and Vegas.
"Brinkley abused that trust of the Better Business Bureau board, its members, marketplace, consumers and the public trust," Williams said.
Kevin Layton's business, Handyman of Tulsa, has been accredited by the BBB for more than a decade and is one of the BBB's most visible advertisers in Oklahoma.
"I was shocked, to be honest with you. I put a lot of trust in Mr. Brinkley, himself," he said.
Layton believes in what the BBB stands for and said Brinkley's actions shouldn't tarnish the accredited business directory, built on trust.
"One man does not stand for what the BBB stands for," he said.
The now interim CEO of the BBB released a statement, saying, in part, "Mr. Brinkley's admission of guilt in the criminal suit is a tragedy to all who entrusted him to lead in various positions within the State of Oklahoma. However, the truth has prevailed and it is our hope that the more than $1.8 million embezzled from the BBB by Mr. Brinkley will be returned."
Brinkley has agreed to pay back the nearly $2 million.
Layton said, "All we can hope for is that it doesn't happen again and that Mr. Brinkley is held accountable."
The BBB is still suing Brinkley, accusing him of embezzlement.
Brinkley's defense attorney said he is getting treatment for gambling addiction and said Brinkley looks forward to "putting this behind [him] and getting on with his life."