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Ex-Wal-Mart exec gets home confinement

Tom Coughlin, the former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vice chairman who admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from the company, was sentenced Friday to 27 months of home confinement.
/ Source: Reuters

Tom Coughlin, the former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vice chairman who admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from the company, was sentenced Friday to 27 months of home confinement.

Coughlin, who joined Wal-Mart in 1978 and worked closely with legendary founder Sam Walton, had faced up to 28 years in prison and $1.35 million in fines after he pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud and tax evasion.

"There is no excuse for my conduct," Coughlin said at the hearing in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, Arkansas. "I feel compelled to apologize to my extended Wal-Mart family."

Coughlin said he would spend the rest of his life trying to undo the damage he had caused.

His doctor, Joel Carver, had testified earlier Friday that the 57-year-old was too "fragile" for prison, suffering from diabetes, cardiac disease, sleep apnea, arterial blockage, and other ailments. Coughlin was treated for arterial blockage in 2003 after falling ill while working out in a gym.

Prosecutors countered that prisons had good medical facilities available to care for him, but Judge Robert Dawson decided on home confinement, five years of probation, and restitution of about $411,000.

Roughly three quarters of that sum will go to Wal-Mart, and the remainder to the Internal Revenue Service.

A Wal-Mart spokesman was not immediately able to comment.

Wal-Mart had accused Coughlin of misappropriating as much as $500,000 through misuse of gift cards and bogus invoices, and said he used the money to buy an odd assortment of items including customized dog kennels and a Celine Dion CD.

Coughlin pleaded guilty to a smaller sum that included $6,500 for his share of a private hunting lease, $2,695 for upgrades to his 1999 Ford truck, and a $200 Sam's Club gift card that he used to buy a cooler, two cases of Miller Light beer and other items.

Judge Dawson recommended that Coughlin begin his home confinement within 60 days, and pay the restitution within 30 days.

Coughlin retired from Wal-Mart in January 2005, but remained on the board of directors until his resignation two months later following an internal investigation into the improper use of gift cards and expenses.