Ex-Wal-Mart Exec Hit with Home Confinement Sentence

August 11, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Wal-Mart's former second-ranked executive received a federal court sentence on Friday, involving home confinement, probation and $450,000 in fines and restitution on charges he stole from the company.

US District Judge Robert Dawson imposed the sentence on Thomas Coughlin, which included 27 months of home confinement, five years probation, a $50,000 fine and $400,000 in repayments, according to an Associated Press news report.

The 57-year-old Coughlin, a protégé of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, stood accused of stealing money, merchandise and gift cards from the giant retailer over a period of at least seven years before his 2005 retirement. According to the news report, he had faced a maximum of 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. He could also have been fined as much $1.4 million.

Prosecutors had requested six months to a year of jail time, but Dawson eventually sided with a doctor’s testimony that Coughlin’s heart trouble was too severe for him to enter prison.

In court, Coughlin specifically admitted in January to defrauding the world’s largest retailer to pay for the care of his hunting dogs, lease a private hunting area, upgrade his pickup truck, buy liquor and a cooler, and receive $3,100 in cash (See Coughlin Pleads Guilty to Wal-Mart Misappropriation Charges ). .

Wal-Mart made further allegations of embezzlement and theft in a separate civil lawsuit it filed last year, seeking to revoke Coughlin’s multimillion-dollar retirement package (See Wal-Mart Explains Firing of Former Vice President ). Wal-Mart’s suit alleges Coughlin used tricks including false expense reports to buy things as random as snakeskin boots, hunting trips and Bloody Mary mix.

However, the lawsuit was dismissed by an Arkansas judge, who said both sides had signed a pledge as part of Coughlin’s retirement deal not to pursue any claims against each other for any reasons. Wal-Mart has appealed the dismissal of its lawsuit to the Arkansas Supreme Court.