A former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vice chairman who was a protege of founder Sam Walton pleaded guilty to fraud and tax charges Tuesday, admitting that he stole money, gift cards and merchandise from the world’s largest retailer.

Tom Coughlin, 57, pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 28 years in prison and a $1.35 million penalty, but prosecutors have likely recommended a reduced sentence as part of a plea bargain.