What’s your story?
Share and find customer experiences
Connect with the people behind them
complaints made social
He’s the semi-automatic collecting senior who's working his way toward 200 lawsuits against Los Angeles small businesses. Many claim those suits are fraud. He claims disability, end-stage emphysema that typically requires organ transplant. But ABC found the senior hiking a steep hill without wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank--and it's on video. Why doesn't James Cohan need assistance for outdoor hikes but supposedly can't access a business on two feet? Good question.
What would you think if you heard of a felon busted for semi-automatic weapons who deals in organs for transplant, has sued over 160 businesses, and spent time in an Italian jail over a decade ago? The character might serve as the star of a movie. The plot could serve as one. It’s not on film. It’s real life. But unfortunately for one man, it is on video – one that’s going to be used against him.
James Farkus Cohan claims to be an advocate for the disabled. People claim he’s an extortionist. He might be making quite a profit. After all, people are often more willing to settle after feeling hassled, harassed or just plain stressed. One business owner said he’s considered giving the guy a third of the demand – basically to get him off his back. And those settlements don’t always make it to legal record. That makes an annual tally of income a bit difficult.
Who is James Farkus Cohan? That may depend whom you ask. James Cohan is the guy now nearing the end years of his own based on age alone – but he’s also the guy who claims life is hampered but what he says is a serious diagnosis and problem: Supposedly Cohan has end-stage emphysema that cause him difficulty with physical aspects like walking, working, speaking and breathing. The guy’s ability to work is supposedly affected – and Cohan may be earning some government-related income on that front too. That part’s a little unclear. What isn’t unclear is that not only is the senior citizen able to walk, he seems able to do so very well. Yes, James Cohan can hike – and hike a steep mountain with what seems ease, fast enough to cause him to wait for his own dog to catch up in the heat.
Now roughly 70, James Farkus Cohan is also the guy who continues to legally sue small businesses in California, under the claim those businesses violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The number of filed lawsuits by Cohan is quickly heading toward the 200 range. ABC claims at least 160 or so as of mid-year in August.
It was just months ago in March 2011 that Cohan submitted written evidence from a doctor, citing a condition of "end-stage emphysema" and specifically referencing a limiting of his ability to walk, work, speak and breathe. While the Sun Valley man claims to need a wheelchair or walker to enter a business, he apparently doesn’t need one for steep hikes.
Cohan claims he needs a wheelchair or walker because of his severe physical condition -- an emphysema that other physicians contend should have the man in a much more serious health condition than what’s exemplified. And while exposure to clear, outdoor air is thought to aid certain medical conditions and suffering, Cohan’s hiking scenario and instant ability to not just walk but climb is either ‘magic’ -- or may go down in history as the first-documented case to free an otherwise severely ill patient from the bounds of a wheelchair or walker. He’s free, free, free – at last.
Well, that freedom depends upon perspective. If the ABC video footage proves fruitful for those who believe he’s a scam artist, that video could make James Cohan less free if it serves as any evidence relating to him or a doctor having had intentionally misled the government. And he’s also less free than he possibly should’ve been.
It seems Mr. James Farkus Cohan was, technically, under house arrest at the time ABC videographers captured him on the side of a California hill sans a wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank. While Cohan flat-out told ABC’s Marc Brown the opposite, that he wasn’t on house arrest, he was still serving his sentence for a felony. Oddly, probation officials or the department refused to answer the media’s question as to whether conditions of James Cohan’s house arrest include freedoms like a hike. It’s not a hard question – nor one that seems like a government official should have a problem answering.
The guy that claims not just severe emphysema -- but actually end-stage of the illness -- was busted by video camera. ABC video footage includes Cohan shown in what appears to be not just decent physical shape, but even better condition – waiting on the hillside for his dog to catch up with him in the Sun Valley heat. And while video footage from a distance doesn’t reflect a guy gasping for air, that seems to change as camera range becomes closer. Asked a question by the ABC crew who caught up with him, James Cohan suddenly seems and sounds winded, a subtle change where more labored breathing occurs as the man is confronted on his hike. The walker, wheelchair and any sign of an oxygen tank were all notably absent from James Cohan’s hike.
Also notably absent was any explanation from James Cohan as to how he needed no walker, wheelchair or oxygen during or for that steep hike. He didn’t have an answer. He did have a suggestion -- that the media talk to his attorneys or doctors about why he needs none of those things. Cohan did have input on one aspect, asking the news crew whether reporter Marc Brown thinks he “fooled” machines and docs about his condition. One entity that may not be a fool is attorneys.
Those attorneys that continue with his case aren’t doing so out of the good heart that Cohan personally claims. And the lawyers not representing him aren’t fools either. In fact two that previously worked for the supposedly emphysema-affected Cohan have called it quits. An attorney interviewed by Eyewitness News suggested to the media the idea that a sudden change of heart could be linked to an idea of liability – of the very legal kind. The other ones that may not prove the fool might be doctors.
A 2003 police sting in South Africa, where elite doctors were operating, busted wide open a scheme including doctors, medical technicians, medical insurance agents, nephrologists – and, yes, even insurance brokers arrested and charged. Note that list of people currently serving decade-long prison sentences includes doctors. So as to whether James Cohan fooled machines or fooled doctors may be a completely irrelevant question. The real question may be which country some doctors may choose to live next, since the U.S. may no longer be a potential that involves guaranteed freedom – should it be proven that any physician falsified diagnosis or documents related to Cohan.
So what does end-stage emphysema have to do with small businesses? A lot – if the man complaining wasn’t actually able to enter those businesses – and a business was barring someone because of a disability, without providing access. But recent video footage casts a whole new light. While the law is meant to ensure that the disabled are allowed the same access rights as others, the fact that a man who is completely capable of not just walking -- but actually hiking seems to have no business at all in any of those legal suits – let alone more than 150. Cohan not only has two feet, he can apparently use them. And use them well.
And the pulmonologist in Glendale procured by Eyewitness News for his take on the matter doesn’t seem to agree that James Cohan’s supposed condition, and the level of physical activity recorded on video seem to match up. Doctor Eli Hendel says end-stage emphysema patients are the ones that no medication can help. And that those are the patients put on a transplant list – requiring a minimum of oxygen assistance.
If James Cohan needs to be put on an organ transplant list, perhaps he can help himself. He is after all in the organ transplant industry. In fact the ABC News report isn’t the first involving James Cohan. He actually made it on a Forbes list of sorts, years ago in 2007. And that wasn’t exactly a complimentary list.
Forbes was doing a round-up on internet brokers of human organs whom had entered the picture after a rising demand that couldn’t be met by organ banks. That Forbes article was titled “Desperate Arrangements” and he handles kidneys, hearts, livers and – ironically – lungs. As state-operated organ banks can't meet demand for organs, the terminally ill are basically left with no option other than risk. And when the scenario literally becomes life or death, many find a time and place for risk to enter lives.
So would it seem strange to know that a man still on house arrest for a felony is the same guy able to file nearly two hundred lawsuits? It certainly adds spice to know James Cohan is currently serving time at home for not just one gun – but 34. An ATF raid turned up semi-automatic weapons and whole cache of guns. Oh, and also some ammo. That’d be 31,000 rounds of ammunition found in Cohan’s possession. Maybe he feels the need to protect himself. Perhaps being involved in the human organ trade can spark that fear.
In fact James Cohan isn’t simply a felon in the United States. He’s been wanted abroad too. Cohan spent months in an Italian jail in the late 90’s – roughly a bit more than a decade ago. The claim internationally: allegations that James F. Cohan was buying and selling organs. Those Italians were clearly wrong. It must be coincidence that the human organ trade is Cohan’s trade of choice, here in the U.S. While the human organ trade has been highly criticized for obvious reason – like people being murdered for organs, or simply waking without an organ they once had – Cohan claims his involvement is supposedly a legal one. It may technically be legal. There’s always loopholes. He claims that because he doesn’t buy or sell organs, he’s doing nothing illegal – simply providing people with prepped hospitals that can perform the work. With organ prices and the customers Cohan’s claimed in the recent past, the income can’t be all that bad: James Cohan claimed he had at least a customer per week, and with the cheapest human organs starting at over a hundred grand and others ranging well over $200,000, it can’t be the worst business to be in – at least not financially anyway.
So where do those human organs come from – and how are those participants so willing to give up the pieces of themselves that tend to be crucial in making life literally ‘livable’? That could be a little questionable. James Cohan hasn’t publicly answered those questions or variations thereof. For an answer, one might consider the countries where those organ operations are taking place: Spots like China, India, the Philippines, South Africa, Singapore, Pakistan and South America are on the list of destinations for those in need of a new major organ. And the role in organ transplant services may not be a doctor but could prove more than profitable: Generally speaking, the ballpark for mark-ups on human organs includes a high of about 400%. Of course everything in life’s negotiable – including life. Dragging out negotiations may depend on poker-playing skills, or perhaps how long you’ve got to live in addition to fluctuations in supply and demand.
While Cohan insists on the media video that he garners no funds for all those lawsuits, the legal filings apparently all from the goodness of his heart, there’s no proof to back that claim. The man insists he makes no money off those lawsuits. He won’t admit to a penny. Considering that the same video footage includes James Cohan also claiming he’s not on house arrest at the time – a lie – it’s a bit hard to know the truth. What is known is that legal settlements aren’t necessarily public record. The fact is a lot of cases settle versus going to trial. And business owners may well consider less time investment and attorney costs a smarter move than battling even what they know to be a suit with no basis. If, for instance, a plaintiff was smart – and planned to continue filing future suits without a readily-available trail -- he might consider an alternative. A confidentially agreement or specific Agreement terms might well ensure those records didn’t become public, to prove a running tally reflecting racked-up income or funds.
The ‘good heart’ of James Cohan and his claim of never receiving a penny also seems to extend to never giving a penny: As of late August, the current suits showed the bulk of Cohan-as-Plaintiff filings to have been granted a fee waiver. That’s right, he’s not funding those lawsuits but good, old taxpayers are – in fact it appears that more than three-quarters, roughly 78%, have been covered by taxpayers.
For now, those tax-payer funded lawsuits will probably continue at what’s been the standard pace – a pretty fast one. Following the ABC interview in August, James Cohan had already filed another three more lawsuits between when the media snapped photos of Cohan and when those got published. There’s actually been a bill to stop actions like those of Cohan’s, but that bill got knocked down. State Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) calls Cohan’s actions like “modern-day extortion.” His SB 783 was meant to quell the problems associated with suits like James Cohan’s – requiring an allowance of four months or 120 days for businesses to rectify potential violations before legal action could be taken – but the bill didn’t make it past committee. He’s trying again next year. By then Cohan, if he’s still alive, will likely have garnered somewhere near the 200 mark.