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Former Wal-Mart VP pleads guilty to enabling fraud

FORT SMITH, Ark. -- A former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vice president pleaded guilty to fraudulently preparing false invoices allowing another company executive to spend $18,105 in company money on himself.

Robert Hey Jr., 42, entered the plea yesterday in federal court in Fort Smith, Ark., to three counts of wire fraud. He admitted preparing phony invoices that allowed a Wal-Mart ''senior executive," referred to in court papers as John Doe, to use company money to pay for hunting trips and truck repairs.

''The false invoices would cause Wal-Mart's payment system to improperly issue a check to the vendor or creditor as payment for John Doe's personal receipt of money, goods, or services," the government said in its complaint.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, sued former vice chairman Thomas Coughlin, 56, for fraud in July, claiming that for five years starting in 1997 he looted the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars by obtaining reimbursement for personal items including underwear and dog food.

An Arkansas state judge threw out most of Wal-Mart's claims Nov. 1. Coughlin isn't named in the papers charging Hey or in Hey's plea agreement. Coughlin hasn't been charged with a crime.

The payments arranged by Hey included an $8,640 hunting trip for ''John Doe" and seven friends, $2,965 for repairs to Doe's 1999 Ford truck, and $6,500 for his personal South Texas hunting lease, according to the plea agreement.

All three payments were reported to the company as expenses related to company meetings, the government said.

Under the terms of his agreement, Hey will cooperate with a federal investigation of the activities described in the complaint.

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