Man who allegedly skipped out on $16K bill at Nemacolin caught
A Michigan man who impersonated a doctor to con a Fayette County resort out of $16,146 in free lodging and amenities was nabbed on an arrest warrant after his mother’s funeral Wednesday, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Jeffrey Paul Cochran, 41, of Scottville was taken into custody after he attended a 2 p.m. graveside service for his mother in Jamestown, Mich.
“They did not actually serve it on him at the funeral,” said Trooper Stefani Lucas of state police at Uniontown. “They served it on him as he was leaving the funeral, approximately 4 miles from the cemetery. They did a traffic stop on him and took him into custody from there.”
Cochran, who is in a Michigan jail awaiting extradition, was wanted on arrest warrants out of Pennsylvania and Nebraska for similar schemes in which police said he impersonated physicians to secure free lodging.
Cochran told the hotels that nearby hospitals would cover his bills, then fled when the ruse was revealed, according to police.
The manager of a third hotel in West Virginia said Thursday that she reported to police that Cochran posed as a heart doctor to secure $13,000 worth of food and lodging there, but no charges had been filed as of Thursday.
Anna Pope of the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington said she and her staff did their own detective work to uncover Cochran’s true identity and details of his mother’s funeral online. She passed the information on to West Virginia troopers, she said.
“We knew his mother was sick, so we kept watching the obituaries, and when we saw that she passed, we were able to get his real name,” Pope said. “Then we Googled it, and we found out all these warrants, from where he was wanted.”
Lucas said Pennsylvania troopers learned of the funeral via a tip, then worked with Michigan authorities to take Cochran into custody.
In Fayette, police said, Cochran passed himself off as a heart surgeon and golf pro during a stay May 15 to May 28 at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington.
Cochran posed as a Uniontown Hospital doctor to persuade the resort to set up a house account that was to be paid by another fictitious physician. He absconded out a back door when employees caught on to the ploy, said police, leaving behind an unpaid bill of $16,146.
Police charged him with theft by deception and theft of services.
Months earlier, Cochran was accused of pretending to be a physician to secure free lodging at the Candlewood Suites in Lincoln, Neb., according to an arrest warrant.
He identified himself to staff as Dr. Jay Cochran and purported to be in town on business with St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, with the hospital to pay his bill, the warrant says.
Cochran stayed for 47 days, checking out on Feb. 12, 2013, without paying his $3,182 bill.
Pope said she went to Huntington police to report that Cochran posed as a heart doctor whose hotel bill was to be paid by St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington. He stayed from April to September and has an outstanding balance of $13,000, she said.
The Huntington officer with whom Pope said she spoke, Jimmy Johnson, did not return a phone call. A clerk with the Cabell County Magistrate Court said she had no record of any charges against Cochran.
Pope said Cochran told staff he was visiting from Las Vegas to investigate a medical malpractice claim against the hospital involving a cardiologist.
“He had a good scam going,” said Pope, who described Cochran as “super intelligent” and “really good” at impersonating a doctor.
“But things would pop up now and then,” Pope said. “We couldn’t find a (physician) license for him. The hospital couldn’t tell us anything.”
Cochran favored the hotel’s pub, Pope said, where staff once threw him a birthday party and he became a regular player at its trivia nights.
They suspected “he was a phony” when the hospital would not pay his bills, Pope said.
She said no one confronted Cochran, instead waiting until he “slipped” and told them his mother’s funeral was in Scottville.
“That was his mistake,” Pope said. “I’m just glad he’s caught.”
Lucas said police are awaiting word on whether Cochran, who is in the Ottawa County Jail in West Olive, Mich., will waive extradition.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.