'Radical psychoanalyst' from Camden on trial for stealing from vulnerable client
PUBLISHED: 13:38 15 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:04 17 August 2016
A “manipulative” man who posed as a “radical existential psychoanalyst” to provide counselling to a vulnerable woman before allegedly stealing her credit card and trying to blackmail her has gone on trial.
American national Tony Cochran, who lives in Camden, is accused of winning the confidence of a woman with bipolar disorder before stealing an iPhone, iPad and Tesco credit card from her, a crown court heard on Monday.
Within the space of two minutes on March 1 last year Cochran used the credit card five times at a cash point to try and withdraw £1,490 and was successful in taking out £200 and £100, the jury heard.
The 29-year-old first met the woman from Hertfordshire, who grew up in Hampstead, after advertising on a support network called The Icarus Project as “a psychoanalyst in America”.
She agreed to pay him £1,980 for telephone counselling and quickly developed a close relationship with Cochran, telling the court she had become “quite dependent on him”.
Barrister Martin Hooper, prosecuting, said: “She was desperate. She was embroiled in social services proceedings over her daughter. We say in these circumstances she was vulnerable and open to abuse and manipulation by the defendant.”
The jury heard in the second week of February 2015 Cochran told the woman he loved her and that he needed to leave the USA before asking her to pay his airfare.
She did not have the money and applied for a Tesco credit card. When it did not arrive in time she used an overdraft to pay for the ticket, the prosecution said.
The defendant arrived in the UK and stayed at her Hertfordshire flat for three days in the last week of February during which time he was “controlling and manipulative,” the prosecution said.
On the morning of March 1 Cochran left the flat and the woman later discovered her iPad, iPhone, some money from her purse, the Tesco credit card and a letter containing the PIN number were gone, the jury heard.
Later that day she received a call from Tesco to say the card had been used in a number of transactions.
“We say that the pattern of use makes it clear that here was a man who was trying to get as much use out of the credit card as quickly as possible before it was realised by the bank,” said the prosecutor.
When Cochran was arrested he claimed the woman had sexually assaulted him and alleged there was a second contract between the pair for £1,790 of “live-in” counselling services which was unpaid.
The jury heard his defence relies on an email allegedly sent by the woman on the morning of March 1, which said: “I’m sorry about last night, I can be a bit violent sometimes. Please take this Tesco card pin 6605 and spend a little for yourself.”
But the prosecution say the woman was asleep in bed at the time and Cochran had access to her iPhone.
He is accused of blackmailing her as he allegedly threatened to report the woman to PayPal and police if she did not pay the debt.
Cochran, of Brunswick Mansions, Handel Street, Bloomsbury, is charged with three counts of theft, three of attempted theft, five of fraud and one count of blackmail.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is representing himself in the trial at St Albans Crown Court.
The case continues.
VICTIM: ‘I WAS VERY CHARMED AND ADMIRED HIM’
The woman at the centre of the case told the jury she was “very charmed” by Tony Cochran and was “eager to please him”.
She said Cochran told her he had a “masters qualification in psychosocial studies from Birkbeck university” in London but added “I’m not sure if this is the case”.
She told the jury: “I really admired him as an educated person and an anti-capitalist” before later asserting during a tense cross examination “I suppose he could be a non-capitalist and a criminal hand-in-hand”.
Describing their counselling sessions, she said: “The approach to what he called radical existential psychoanalysis is that he gives you a lot of personal information about himself to aid the relationship between himself and the client.”
She continued: “What I’m trying to say is that what was being built-up was far more than a professional relationship.”
On arrest Cochran claimed the woman had sexually assaulted him on three occasions before he left her flat.
Visibly angered, she strenuously denied the allegations saying: “I was questioned by police about this in December last year, I was never charged. No this did not happen.”