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Appeals court orders new sentence hearing for Wal-Mart exec who got home detention for fraud

Appeals court orders new sentence hearing for Wal-Mart exec who got home detention for fraud

A former Wal-Mart executive who was sentenced to home detention in a fraud case got off too light and must be sentenced again, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Prosecutors had argued U.S. District Judge Robert T. Dawson failed to consider the gravity of Tom Coughlin's offense while giving him credit as a pillar of the community.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying the sentence of 27 months of home detention and 33 months of additional probation was too lenient.
"Perhaps Coughlin's family ties and station in the community, as well as his lofty corporate position of trust and power, exacerbate the nature of his crimes, especially for Coughlin's victims: Wal-Mart, and more generally, American businesses," the court wrote in a split decision.
Coughlin, a protege of company founder Sam Walton, was a 28-year employee who rose to the No. 2 job at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., world's biggest retailer. He retired in January 2005.
Months later, the company based in Bentonville, accused him of using Wal-Mart money and gift cards to pay for about $500,000 (euro365,925) in personal items that ranged from hunting trips and hunting dog training to clothes, alcohol and work on his car.
Coughlin pleaded guilty to tax and fraud charges in January 2006.
Dawson had cited Coughlin's age, 58, his good works within the community and his failing health when sentencing Coughlin to five years probation, of which 27 months was to be spent at home. Dawson also fined Coughlin$50,000 (euro36,592) and ordered $411,218 (euro300,950) in restitution.
Coughlin was allowed to leave home for doctors' appointments and church.
The sentence "does not fall within the range of reasonableness," Judge William Jay Riley wrote. Riley also said Coughlin must also pay interest on the money due; Coughlin's net worth was calculated at $50 million (euro36.6 million) but Dawson erroneously found Coughlin couldn't afford it.
In a dissent, Judge Kermit E. Bye said Dawson properly found that Coughlin suffered from poor health and that the sentence should stand.


Updated : 2021-05-18 03:37 GMT+08:00