Coughlin Pleads Guilty to Wal-Mart Misappropriation Charges

January 31, 2006 ( - Tom Coughlin, the ex-vice chair of retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores, was in federal court in Fort Smith, Arkansas Tuesday to enter a guilty plea to wire fraud and tax evasion charges.

Couglin faces sentencing at a later date on five wire fraud counts and a tax evasion charge in connection with allegations he stole as much as $500,000 through a scheme involving gift cards and fraudulent invoices (See  Wal-Mart Explains Firing of Former Vice President ), Reuters reported. According to the allegations, Coughlin used the stolen funds for items such as customized dog kennels and a Celine Dion music CD.

Coughlin faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud, and up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine for tax evasion, according to the news report.

“Today, I accepted responsibility for serious personal mistakes in judgment,” Coughlin said in a statement through his attorney. “This was not an easy decision. I regret the embarrassment this matter has caused my family and friends and I thank them for their support, love and friendship.”

US District Judge Robert Dawson ordered the 14-page plea agreement placed under seal, saying he was “concerned, deeply concerned” about pretrial publicity in the case. Sentencing was postponed until a pretrial report is completed.