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Ex-Wal-Mart No. 2 to plead guilty?
Thomas Coughlin reportedly set to plead guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges, could get 2 years.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vice chairman, Thomas Coughlin, agreed to plead guilty to federal wire-fraud and tax-evasion charges later this month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Coughlin, formerly the retailer's No. 2 executive, left the company early last year amid accusations that he misappropriated as much as $500,000 from Wal-Mart through fraudulent reimbursements and improper use of gift cards, the paper said.

Coughlin will plead guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion, the Journal said citing people familiar with the matter. A court hearing on the plea deal is set for later in January.

Coughlin could face more than two years in prison as part of his settlement.

Coughlin is expected claim that he was reimbursing himself for a secret scheme to fund an anti-union spy operation. But Federal prosecutors found no significant evidence that he was part of any undercover operation, the paper said.

According to the report, Coughlin was caught after requesting over $5,000 in company gift cards allegedly to reward performance by employees.

Instead, Wal-Mart (Research) claimed Coughlin used the gift cards himself at Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Club outlets, buying three 12-gauge shotguns, a Celine Dion compact disc, Stolichnaya vodka, wine and Polish sausage among other things, the paper said.

"The allegations have not yet been proven true or false but the allegations speak volumes of the managerial culture at Wal-Mart," Tracy Sefl with Washington-based advocacy group Wal-Mart Watch told CNNMoney.

Wal-Mart declined to give CNNMoney any comment for this story. Attorneys for Coughlin also declined to comment.

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