More Legal Trouble For A Former Senator

Friday, October 5th 2007, 8:18 pm
By: News On 6

There is more legal trouble for former long-time state senator Gene Stipe. He and his younger brother were both indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday. They face charges of mail fraud, witness tampering, conspiracy and money laundering.

Gene Stipe is accused of paying off a lawmaker for funneling state money into his private business, and then threatening that lawmaker to keep him from testifying. The News On 6’s Ashli Sims reports these latest accusations are part of a string of legal troubles spanning the last four years.

When he walked off the senate floor in 2003, Gene Stipe was one of the longest serving and most powerful state senators in Oklahoma history.

"It's tragic, a black day for Oklahoma,” Senator Frank Shurden said in 2003. “We've lost a real warrior for the people. No doubt about it."

In McAlester, Stipe was practically larger than life, but even then, the rumors cast a shadow on his legacy.

"I don't think people think he's done anything wrong, but if he didn't, why did he resign?" Stipe opponent Jimmy Ulibarri said in a 2003 interview with The News On 6.

One month after he resigned, Stipe pled guilty to felony conspiracy and perjury charges. Investigators say Stipe illegally funneled nearly $250,000 into Walt Roberts failed campaign. Stipe didn't serve any jail time, but was sentenced to five years of probation and stripped of his license to practice law. Three years later, Stipe's legal troubles began anew.

The FBI raided his office last March, seizing two computers. Then in April, former state representative Mike Mass admitted he took kickbacks. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice's investigation.

Two months later another blow, Stipe's former business partner, Steven Phipps, also pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.

Now, Stipe and his brother Francis have been caught up in the investigation. They're charged with conspiring to funnel tax dollars into a McAlester Foundation, which in turn bought real estate owned by Stipe for his pet food company. The Stipes are also accused of buying Mass' mortgage to influence his testimony in the federal investigation. The indictment also says the two committed mail fraud.

Clark Brewster, Stipe's attorney, calls the allegations "entirely defensible.” He says it's an attempt to cash in on the name Gene Stipe, rather than protecting the public.

If Stipe is convicted, he could have a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a million dollar fine.

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