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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 13:41 GMT
Ex-Wal-Mart boss stole from firm
Tom Coughlin
Coughlin said he accepted responsibility for what he had done
The former vice-chairman of Wal-Mart, Tom Coughlin, has admitted stealing thousands of pounds from his employer.

The money was used to buy goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the world's largest retailer - everything from shotguns to a sausage.

Coughlin, a close friend of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, could face a lengthy jail sentence.

He was forced to resign last March when an internal inquiry revealed his misuse of company gift vouchers.

It was later alleged he had also misused his expense account to buy personal items.

Extraordinary array

Prosecutors said the money had been used to buy, among other things, customised dog kennels, a Celine Dion CD, handmade alligator skin boots, several shotguns, a large Polish sausage and to upgrade his truck.

In the run-up to the trial, Coughlin claimed that the money had been used to help fund a covert operation to fund anti-union activities, including measures to spy on pro-union workers.

The claims were strenuously denied by the retailer.

On Tuesday, Mr Coughlin pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud and a further count of tax evasion.

"Today, I accepted responsibility for serious personal mistakes in judgment," Coughlin, 57, said in a statement.

"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."

Details of his plea bargain have been kept secret however, as Judge Robert Dawson said he was "concerned, deeply concerned" about pre-trial publicity surrounding the case.

He could face up to 28 years in prison, as well as more than $1m in fines.

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