A retired naval officer who was found guilty of filing a false claim with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and stealing approximately $151,000 from the government was sentenced Monday to 41 months behind bars.
Charles E. Coughlin of Severna Park, Md., was earlier convicted by a jury in the U.S. District Court for D.C. of filing a false claim and theft of government property.
"After 9/11, we as Americans set up a fund to compensate the heroic victims and families who lost loved ones on that terrible day," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. "Charles Coughlin treated America's response to 9/11 as a get-rich-quick opportunity. This sentence is just punishment for his scheme to defraud the American taxpayer."
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.