Imagine you own a flower shop and you've fallen on hard times. First, you get into a wrangle with your landlord after the sewer line backed up into the building. Then, Hurricane Ike comes along and does a number on you, and the insurance company drags its feet on your $133,000 storm claim.
It was probably a good idea to hire an able and trustworthy attorney to help cut through that mess, and that was just what Flowers to Go and Look Hair Salon owner Peter Razooq tried to do back in 2009.
Unfortunately, the guy Razooq found -- Uptown attorney Robert Gregory Cochran -- was not trustworthy at all, and the only thing he showed himself able to do was steal, and steal plenty.
According to court records, Razooq consulted Cochran to sort out the mess with the landlord. Cochran told him that no money need change hands up front; he would collect any fees on the back end from any lawsuits they might file against the landlord.
Cochran then asked Razooq if he could take a look at those insurance claims he had pending with Nationwide Allied. He told Razooq that they would help him prepare his case against his landlord.
That's all, Cochran said. I just kinda need to see 'em, you know?
Razooq handed over the claims and waited.
And waited, and waited.
The dispute with the landlord dragged on and on. What's more, Razooq's insurance adjusters quit returning his messages, and he still had not collected a penny of his claims.
Finally, in March of 2010, an insurance adjuster did get back to Razooq. The Nationwide guy told the puzzled flower shop owner that all of his claims had been paid, and a few days later, the company sent over the canceled checks to prove it.
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The five checks bore two signatures -- Greg Cochran's real autograph, and Peter Razooq's forged one. And by the time Razooq found out, Cochran had spent the entire $133,000.
Razooq set up what must have been a chilly dinner date with Cochran. The attorney admitted swiping the loot and promised to pay him back. Razooq gave Cochran a chance, but when weeks passed and no money came from Cochran, Razooq went to the law.
Cochran was arrested in January of 2011 and charged with second-degree felony theft. After digging into his dealings with other clients, prosecutors tacked on a charge of misapplication of fiduciary property of over $200,000. Yesterday he was convicted on both counts and Judge Mark Kent Ellis sent him to prison for five years on the theft charge. Cochran will also be on probation until 2022, and the Texas State Bar pulled his card long before his day in court.
All of which is probably cold comfort to Razooq. At the time of Cochran's arrest, he told reporters that his former attorney had "ruined" him.