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Fired Oklahoma state employee accused of taking bribes

Rene M. Navas, who worked as customer assistant representative for Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, was charged Thursday with three felony counts of receiving bribes.
BY NOLAN CLAY Published: October 26, 2010
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A state employee illegally charged hundreds of unemployed workers to fill out their weekly claims for benefits, officials allege.

Rene M. Navas, 63, of Oklahoma City, was charged Thursday with three felony counts of receiving bribes. He had not been arrested as of Monday afternoon.

He was fired in October 2009 from his customer-assistance job at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. He had worked there since January 1994.

He is accused of charging Spanish-speaking applicants $10 a week to fill out their claims. Prosecutors allege it was part of his duties to translate government forms from English to Spanish for applicants who couldn't speak English.

A U.S. Labor Department investigator reported Navas admitted he charged at least 300 people last year. The investigator also reported, "Navas admitted he stopped helping the individuals if they stopped paying him."

The investigator reported that Navas claimed he hadn't spent any of the money and kept it in a black bag. He turned over the black bag. It contained $5,400 in cash, records show.

Navas stated at an agency hearing that he did not know what he was doing was wrong and that he just wanted to help the Hispanic community, according to his termination letter.

Contacted Monday by phone, Navas said, "They are feeding you guys wrong information."

In a statement, the agency told The Oklahoman it took appropriate action as soon as officials learned what was happening.

"OESC is here to serve the people of Oklahoma, and we have zero tolerance for those who try to take advantage of our customers, especially in our name," the agency said.

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