Robert E. Coughlin II was hired in March 2001 at the age of 29 as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs. In May 2002, he became Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison at the Justice Department until he transferred to US Attorney’s Office for Eastern Virginia in November 2003. During this time, he accepted meals, sports and concert tickets, and a golf outing (in all worth about $6,180) from Kevin Ring, a former aide to Representative John Doolittle (R-CA) who subsequently worked for Jack Abramoff. In return, Coughlin kept Ring and through him Abramoff apprised of deliberations at the DOJ and gave them advice on proceedings there related to their lobbying interests. In one case, he helped them get full funding for a $16.3 million jail construction contract for Abramoff clients the Mississippi Choctaw. On June 25, 2002, the contract was approved, and Ring emailed Coughlin “CHA-CHING!!!!” In another case, Coughlin expedited review for Abramoff’s Jewish Eshkol Academy so that it could admit foreign students. At the same time, Coughlin was providing these services he was engaged in talks for a possible position with Abramoff’s lobbying firm. After his stint in Eastern Virginia, Coughlin became deputy chief of staff of the Criminal Division at the DOJ, a position he resigned on April 6, 2007 when his dealings with Ring first came out. On April 22, 2008, Coughlin pled guilty in a plea agreement to one count of taking actions in his official capacity in which he had a financial interest (i.e. the gifts he received). In exchange, for a sentence of 6-10 months, Coughlin has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
On September 8, 2008, Kevin Ring was indicted on 10 counts of public corruption.