DOCUMENT: Investigation, Crime

Pentagon 9/11 Hero A Fraudster?

Navy commander, a Purple Heart recipient, accused in 331k con

View Document

Pentagon 9/11 Hero A Fraudster?

SEPTEMBER 22--A Navy commander who was awarded the Purple Heart for his rescue efforts at the Pentagon on September 11 fraudulently obtained $331,000 from the federal Victim Compensation Fund by lying about the extent of injuries he suffered during the terrorist attack, prosecutors allege.

Though Charles Coughlin, 49, claimed that he had a 'partial, permanent disability,' Department of Justice investigators allege that, following the 2001 attack, Coughlin engaged in an array of strenuous physical activities, including completing the New York City Marathon two months after the Pentagon attack (Coughlin ran the 26.2 mile race in a crisp 3:43).

According to a U.S. District Court forfeiture complaint, Coughlin submitted 'false written statements' and made 'material misrepresentations' to the VCF 'in order to obtain funds to which he was not entitled.' The September 18 complaint, a copy of which you'll find here, seeks the seizure of a Maryland property Coughlin and his wife purchased with a portion of the $331,034 VCF payment.

The complaint, which accuses Coughlin of hatching a mail and wire fraud scheme, notes that he claimed to have been 'struck on the head by falling debris' after the Pentagon was hit by a hijacked American Airlines jet. Coughlin, now retired, added that he also inadvertently hit his head when he 're-entered the Pentagon to assist in rescue efforts.' While Coughlin claimed these injuries were severe, federal investigators discovered that he 'continued to participate in physical activities, including competitive lacrosse, basketball, and running.' He also allegedly misrepresented details about pre-9/11 neck and shoulder injuries and his use of prescription pain drugs.

Coughlin did not respond to a message left Monday afternoon with his wife. His lawyer, John Bourgeois, told TSG that he is representing Coughlin in connection with an ongoing grand jury proceeding, but could not comment on the forfeiture application since he had not seen the document. (12 pages)