Former Wal-Mart executive is resentenced, avoids prison

From the Associated Press

A former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive avoided a prison term Friday when a federal judge resentenced him for wire fraud and tax evasion.

The judge added only 1,500 hours of community service to Tom Coughlin's punishment, and the former vice chairman said he was grateful.

"Judge, I just want to thank you for your fairness," he said.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Robert T. Dawson had sentenced Coughlin to 27 months of home detention, five years' probation, a $50,000 fine and $400,000 restitution.

In an appeal by federal prosecutors, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year said the sentence was too lenient and sent the case back to Dawson.

During the resentencing, the judge said Coughlin, 58, had a history of community service, no criminal record and had medical problems. Dawson promised a 30-page sentencing memorandum elaborating on his reasoning.

Coughlin was accused of stealing gift cards and having the Bentonville, Ark.-based company cover the cost of other items, which amounted to a loss that Wal-Mart estimated at about $500,000. Officials say Coughlin has paid his fine and restitution.

In January 2006, Coughlin pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. The former No. 2 executive at Wal-Mart faced a possible sentence of more than 28 years in prison and fines of $1.35 million.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Chris Plumlee objected to the lack of prison time and called a Federal Bureau of Prisons doctor to the stand. Dr. Jeff Allen, chief of health programs for the bureau's central office in Washington, testified that the prisons could take adequate care of Coughlin.

Plumlee said the government would have to review the judge's decision before deciding whether to again appeal the sentence.

Dawson said the sentence he gave Coughlin was substantial punishment.

"Coughlin has suffered greatly, for he had it all and squandered his success. For that he is paying the price and will be punished for the rest of his life," the judge wrote.

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