Canadian ad exec pleads guilty

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[Montreal] Paul Coffin, the first advertising executive to be charged with fraud in Canada's sponsorship scandal, has pleaded guilty to 15 of 18 fraud charges brought against him in connection with overbilling the government by close to $1.2 million. The other three charges against the president of Montreal-based Communication Coffin were dropped. A shocking government report first disclosed in February 2004 that some $83 million of a $208 million government sponsorship fund funneled through advertising and public-relations agencies wasn't properly accounted for. Mr. Coffin pleaded guilty before his trial was due to begin and his sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 16. The maximum sentence for each count of fraud is 10 years; the judge has indicated Mr. Coffin's sentence will be shorter but the government wants him to get jail time. Mr. Coffin has said that he wants to pay back the close to $1.2 million that his company overbilled. If he does, his sentence is likely to be reduced. "I was stupid," he said in testimony to the televised Gomery Commission inquiry into the misspent sponsorship dollars.
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