Former Wal-Mart exec admits wire fraud

Robert E. Hey Jr., who reported to a former vice chairman under federal investigation, pleads guilty to embezzling money.

Associated Press
Published November 8, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A former Wal-Mart vice president pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of wire fraud, admitting that he manipulated invoices to embezzle money that was funneled to a senior executive.

Robert E. Hey Jr. had reported to Thomas Coughlin, a former Wal-Mart vice chairman under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office. Wal-Mart referred Coughlin to prosecutors this year, alleging he had defrauded the company out of $500,000; Coughlin has not been charged.

According to U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe, between 1997 and 2004, Hey used his position to "illegally manipulate employee travel reimbursement and (the) vendor invoice accounting system at Wal-Mart to embezzle monies, gift cards and products which were provided to a senior Wal-Mart executive for the executive's personal benefit and use."

A statement from Balfe and a bill of information do not list Coughlin as the beneficiary but instead list only a "John Doe." Many of the allegations mirror previous Wal-Mart filings with the Labor Department and local courts that do mention Coughlin by name.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, and Coughlin attorney William Taylor III both declined comment.

Hey faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a maximum fine of $1-million on each count.