Federal prosecutors have filed a civil lawsuit against now-retired Navy Cmdr. Charles Coughlin who was granted a Purple Heart for injuries he claimed to have suffered when a plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Feds claim Coughlin, 49, falsely claimed he suffered "a partial permanent disability" after falling debris hit him on the head, earning him $331,000 from the Victim Compensation Fund.
Not two months after filing his claim, Coughlin ran the New York City marathon in under four hours and continued playing basketball and lacrosse, prosecutors said. This despite writing specifically in his claim that he could "no longer run marathons, ceased playing lacrosse ... and avoid playing basketball."
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The suit doesn't question Coughlin's actions during the Pentagon attack, only the account of injuries he submitted to the compensation fund. Coughlin still has the Purple Heart, and the honors are not under review by the Navy, officials said.
Prosecutors claim the medical terminology he used to describe his injuries duplicated the language that a doctor used to diagnose him in 1998 and he had a "a history of neck and shoulder ailments predating September 11, 2001, including an injury as early as 1978 to his left shoulder."
Coughlin's lawyer denies the allegations and said the matter would be resolved in court.
Government attorneys are seeking to seize Coughlin's $1 million house, his Mercedes-Benz and minivan because he used money from the victims' fund to get them. Coughlin used at least $200,000 of the money to buy his home six months later and to pay off loans on the vehicles, prosecutors said. The government has taken the vehicles pursuant to a seizure warrant, which is approved by a judge. Prosecutors want the court's permission to seize them permanently.