Brinkman quoted in article on former prosecutors who switched to defense
Porter Wright's Kathy Brinkman was interviewed for the article, "Across the aisle: former prosecutors who switched to defense compare notes," which was published in Super Lawyers® Ohio & Kentucky 2020. Brinkman, who has been recognized for multiple years including 2020 by Ohio Super Lawyers®, joined Porter Wright's Cincinnati office after 24 years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
The prosecutors were asked a number of questions regarding their work as prosecutors and their transition into private practice.
Why become a prosecutor?
Brinkman: Thanks to my parents, who were Roosevelt Democrats, I had a very well-developed sense of social justice. One very important way to pursue my passion was as a federal prosecutor. Prosecutors are the most powerful positions in the criminal justice system. That is something I didn't fully appreciate until I became a prosecutor. The prosecutor decides who gets investigated, what they get investigated for, and how many resources are devoted to the investigation.
What cases stick out from your time as a prosecutor?
Brinkman: An early case I tried was a bank robbery. The M.O. of the bank robber was unique: When he entered a bank, he vaulted over the teller counter to collect the money. His nickname was Grasshopper. The person we were trying was the getaway driver, who did not have a criminal record. We tried this case in federal court and it resulted in a hung jury. Then there was a second hung jury. We tried it the third time with a different judge, and he was convicted. He was a rather sympathetic defendant, not having a prior record and being young.
I prosecuted a builder who operated out of Northern Kentucky named Bill Erpenbeck. The scheme occurred in a family-run construction company that built single-family homes and condos. He had construction loans from major banks in Cincinnati, and the banks took a secured interest in the condos or the single-family homes. He had cash-flow problems. His representative would tell people at the closings that she would hand-carry the check payable to the construction lender and pay off that property's loan and save interest by doing it immediately—rather than having someone else mail it. Instead, she brought the checks back to the builder's offices, they fraudulently endorsed them and deposited them into the company’s own account. It accumulated to a fraud of about $33 million.
Why switch to private practice?
Brinkman: I was satisfied with what I had accomplished. My husband and I loved to travel. My retirement only lasted two years. I was approached by the Porter Wright law firm about coming to do white-collar defense. I live two blocks from the Porter Wright office in downtown Cincinnati. I thought, "Well, you know, they told me I could be flexible in my hours. I'm kind of bored." So I went back to work.
What is a memorable private-side case you worked on?
Brinkman: I helped obtain $24 million in restitution for 143,000 victims of a defendant who ran a company that sold a product through a character on TV called Smilin' Bob. The product was a male-sexual-enhancement, over-the-counter product. The guy's name was Steve Warshak. The business he ran was Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals and the product was Enzyte. The complaint of the victims was not that Enzyte didn't work—it was that when you signed to get a free introductory supply, they took your credit card and charged you for the shipping. But then they wouldn't cancel the automatic renewals. A lot of these people ran up charges on their credit cards for hundreds of dollars. It was the same time that Bernie Madoff was going on, so there was a lot of interest in how the government could gather money from criminal defendants and get it back to victims as restitution.
Brinkman: I'd done [prosecution] for 24 years. Now, the only power that I had in representing the target of the investigation was to tell the prosecutor, "I understand your position that you think my client has committed a crime, but we're going to try it, we'll go to court."