Charles Coughlin convicted of lying to, stealing from 9/11 victim's fund

A retired naval officer was found guilty of filing a false claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and stealing approximately $151,000 from the government, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced Monday.

Charles E. Coughlin of Severna Park, Md., was convicted by a jury in the U.S. District Court for D.C. of filing a false claim and theft of government property.

The evidence presented at the trial showed the 52-year-old tried to get the fund to cover costs for the treatment of medical conditions he had before to the attacks.

According to the government’s evidence, Coughlin filed a claim with the fund in December 2003, seeking damages because of an injury he sustained following the attack on the Pentagon.

Coughlin rejected the fund’s initial offer of $60,000 and successfully argues that he expected to miss more time off work and had to pay others to help with household chores. He said his Sept. 11 injuries would lead to other physical ailments down the road that needed to be covered.

The fund awarded Coughlin more than $330,000.

Evidence presented at the trial, however, showed that Coughlin two years previously had sought medical treatment for a neck injury that he claimed resulted from the attacks. A neurosurgeon said there was no way to predict surgery or the future ailments Coughlin said would result from his injuries.

The events of September 11th may have aggravated this pre-existing condition, the government said in a news release, but medical evidence showed his symptoms lessened when he underwent treatment. The government says Coughlin faked being in constant pain and unable to work around the house, when in fact he continued to play sports and ran the New York City Marathon in November 2001. Three-fourths of the receipts he showed the fund were fake.

“Charles Coughlin tried to make a profit on the 9/11 tragedy by making false claims on the fund set up to compensate the many heroic victims of the attack,” U.S. Attorney Machen said in a government news release.

The charges carry statutory maximum penalties of five and ten years, respectively. The government intends to argue that Coughlin’s sentencing should range from 41 to 51 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for November 21, 2011.