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Medford couple gets a third of about $97,500 in seized cash

A Medford couple that had nearly $100,000 seized from its bank accounts last year by federal authorities will get about a third of it back.

A final judgment in the case was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford outlining a settlement agreement John and Ruth Coughlin and the U.S. government reached in July concerning the seized $97,480.

In the settlement, the Coughlins were returned $34,452 while the government forfeited $63,028.

During 2012, John and Ruth Coughlin made several cash deposits in a pair of Rogue Federal Credit Union branches of slightly less than $10,000, allegedly as a way to avoid notice of the Internal Revenue Service.

Federal law requires that deposits, exchanges or withdrawals of $10,000 or more be reported to the IRS in the form of a Currency Transaction Report. Federal law enforcement uses these reports to bust large-scale drug dealers and uncover money-laundering and tax-evasion schemes, according to the initial complaint filed April 11, 2013, with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon.

A statement written by Douglas County sheriff's Detective Joshua Sullivan, who is assigned to the state's financial crimes task force, said Ruth Coughlin made numerous deposits between Jan. 23, 2012, and Feb. 3, 2012, that suggested she was attempting to structure her financial holdings to avoid the CTRs.

Sullivan noted that Ruth Coughlin made deposits of $9,975, $9,000, $9,000 and $9,500 over the course of two days at two separate bank branches that were within six miles of each other.

The federal government seized the couple's money initially alleging the cash was part of a "drug-related seizure of property," but federal prosecutor Amy Potter said that was a mistaken distinction and "there is no evidence of any drug related activity."

The Coughlins declined to comment on the case when contacted following the settlement.

As part of his investigation, Sullivan interviewed Rogue Federal Credit Union employees who said Coughlin indicated that she was aware of the reporting laws.

"She knew if it was under a certain amount, then the bank didn't have to report anything," one employee said. "She thought that if she was under $10,000 per transaction, nothing would be reported."

The law requires banks to report when one person makes $10,000 or more worth of transactions in a day, Sullivan wrote in his report.

Sullivan said he could not determine how the Coughlins made their money. The couple claims to own a business called Coughlin Enterprises Inc., but the business is not registered with the state's business directory.

The couple does have three airplanes registered to them through the Federal Aviation Administration, Sullivan's report said. 

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@gmail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.