Four people indicted in Oklahoma Tax Commission probe enter pleas

Thursday, April 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Four people indicted in the Oklahoma Tax Commission probe have pleaded guilty to conspiracy counts, the attorney general announced.

Brian Carl Brantley, Billy Bruce Baber, Ronnie E. Cantwell and Daniel H. Kiplinger entered blinds pleas on Wednesday to one count of conspiracy against the state.

A blind plea means no prior sentencing agreement was reached with prosecutors, leaving the decision to the judge. The four are scheduled to be formally sentenced May 30.

Sharon K. Caywood waived a jury trial, the attorney general's office said.

The multicounty grand jury has been looking into alleged bribery and kickbacks among Tax Commission employees and service agents.

Caywood, 41, was a supervisor in the Tax Commission's Prorate Division and Brantley and Baber, 35, were field auditors. Kiplinger, 45, owned Expert Prorating and Cantwell, 29, worked there at the time of the alleged crimes.

Investigators believe that from Dec. 1, 2000, and Sept. 30, 2001, the five conspired to submit invoices from the Tax Commission and/or Expert Prorating to trucking companies for the amount of taxes the companies owed.

They then allegedly created fraudulent bills containing amounts less than the invoices that were sent and pocketed the difference.

``The indictment listed 15 separate occasions where fraudulent bills were submitted,'' said Edmondson, whose office administers the grand jury. ``The defendants are accused of defrauding the state of more than $328,000 as a result of this scheme.''

Baber also pleaded guilty to a June 12 indictment on one count of preventing a witness from giving testimony. He allegedly threatened to kill the witness if the man ``told the authorities or gave testimony about the defendant's involvement in criminal activity or turned over to the authorities documents incriminating the defendant ... ,'' the indictment stated.

Brantley, 37, also pleaded guilty to 37 counts of filing a false claim against the state.

Also on Wednesday, an Oklahoma County judge suspended all but three months of a 10-year sentence for a former Tax Commission encoder who entered a blind plea to one count of conspiracy against the state.

Herbert Coles, 36, also was ordered to pay about $32,000 in restitution.

Coles and Jason Frias were named in an Aug. 6 indictment.

``The indictment detailed 29 overt acts where more than $4,000 due the state was `converted to the personal use' of the accused,'' Attorney General Drew Edmondson said in a news release.

Frias worked for a service agency called Oklahoma Truck Tags for Le$$.