The former vice chairman of Wal-Mart faces a maximum prison sentence of 28 years and a $1.35m (£757,000) fine after pleading guilty to fiddling his expenses to buy a bizarre range of items, including a 12-bore shotgun, a Celine Dion CD and a large Polish sausage.
Thomas Coughlin resigned as the No. 2 boss of the world’s largest retailer last March after it was revealed that he had used about $500,000 (£281,495) worth of company gift cards to buy items for himself, while claiming that the cards were to be given to employees as bonuses.
It was also alleged that Coughlin had claimed thousands of dollars’ worth of expenses for other personal items, such as three 12-bore shotguns that cost $1,000 (£563), a rifle case for more than $100, and a bottle of vodka.
But Coughlin, a former close friend of the late Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, said the expenses were payment in kind for a covert anti-union spying operation the retailer was running.
Coughlin said the spying policy was set up to deter Wal-Mart employees from becoming involved with trade unions. The company strenuously denied the allegations.
The former Wal-Mart executive, who has a library named after him in the company’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, said he now regretted his actions.
“Today I accepted responsibility for serious personal mistakes in judgement,” he said. “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. I am glad to put this matter to an end.”
Coughlin is expected to be sentenced in about three months’ time.