to a story in The Oklahoman, law enforcement officials have executed
search warrants on the offices of two Oklahoma Tax Commission
administrators and the home of an agency auditor. The searches
were part of a grand jury's broadening investigation into allegations
of bribery and corruption by commission employees.
of Stephen G. Smith, the Tax Commission's enforcement administrator,
and David Gene Nicholson, administrator over the commission's
truck registration division, reportedly were searched July 16
in Oklahoma City. Law enforcement officers have also searched
the home of agency auditor Leon Qualls Jr.
have been investigating whether private trucking agents paid bribes
to OTC employees to get cheaper tags. The probe began as a Tax
Commission internal investigation.
Commission auditor Billy Bruce Baber last month became the first
person indicted in the probe when he was charged with making a
death threat to a former trucking agent in a failed attempt to
keep the agent from turning over incriminating documents or testifying
about their "criminal activity."
agent, Ronnie E. Cantwell Jr., testified at Baber's bail hearing
that a trucking company had paid his firm $176,000 for its tags,
but Baber reworked the estimated mileage on the bill so only $76,000
went to the OTC. Cantwell said the remaining $100,000 was divided
among himself, Baber, trucking agent Dan Kiplinger and former
Tax Commission auditor Brian Brantley.
after he came under suspicion. Brantley resigned after refusing
to answer the grand jury's questions. As of July 17, Nicholson,
Smith and Qualls reportedly have not had any disciplinary action
taken against them by the Tax Commission.