May 5 (Reuters) - A former MillerCoors marketing executive has pleaded guilty to helping steal more than $8.6 million from the beer producer by billing for events and promotions that never took place.
David Colletti, a vice president who worked for MillerCoors or its predecessors for 31 years, admitted on Wednesday to one count of wire fraud in the federal court in Chicago, according to the defendant’s plea agreement.
Prosecutors agreed to seek a nearly 5-1/2-year prison term if Colletti helped them prosecute seven other defendants who were charged last May. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a roughly eight- to 10-year term.
No sentencing date has been set. MillerCoors is a joint venture between SABMiller Plc and Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Eugene Murphy, a lawyer for Colletti, said his client will work with prosecutors and try to resolve MillerCoors’ civil fraud lawsuit against him in a Wisconsin state court.
Colletti previously settled a lawsuit accusing MillerCoors of improperly withholding his pension benefits, Murphy said. The lawyer spoke in a phone interview on Thursday.
MillerCoors spokesman Jon Stern said of the plea: “It’s a step closer to justice being served in this embezzlement case.”
Colletti oversaw the marketing, promotion and sale of beer by MillerCoors to bars and restaurants.
Prosecutors accused him of having from at least 2003 until his 2013 firing schemed to bill MillerCoors for events that did not occur, or at inflated costs.
They said Colletti submitted at least 200 false estimates and invoices, causing MillerCoors to pay more than $8.65 million to at least 15 vendors controlled by the other seven defendants.
In exchange, the defendants gave Colletti kickbacks including cash, money transfers, golf and hunting trips, and collectible firearms, according to the plea agreement.
The case is U.S. v Colletti, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 15-cr-00260. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)