Big-House Guru

Ron Cohen counsels new inmates on surviving life behind bars. He should know. He's been there.

While he has high expectations, his venture has not returned him to the financial stratosphere. Divorced, he lives in an extended-stay hotel because as an ex-con he can't find a leasing agent who will rent him an apartment. His business is basically a cell phone and a post office box.

And, he's aware, there are those who view him skeptically. There are lawyers out there who simply can't bring themselves to pay an ex-con to help their clients, he says. "I just have to accept that." And, of course, there are those whose money he squandered. They aren't likely to ever be convinced Cohen has gone straight.

If his business ever makes it big, he says, he'd like to repay those he bilked. "I live every day with the fact I'm a convicted felon, that I've done bad things and hurt a lot of people," he says. "No matter what I'm able to accomplish from here on out, that's never going to change."

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