Saturday, May 18, 2002

New Erpenbeck lawyer seen as top trial talent

Barrett's client list includes Marvin Warner and ex-Bengal Brooks

By Patrick Crowley,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EDGEWOOD — Jeff Erpenbeck, who is trying to save his home building company while facing a torrent of lawsuits, has hired a Cincinnati lawyer who once represented Marvin Warner.

        Mr. Erpenbeck, head of the Erpenbeck Co., has hired Michael Barrett, a veteran trial lawyer and a former assistant Hamilton County prosecutor.

Bill Erpenbeck
Bill Erpenbeck
        Mr. Erpenbeck has been running the company since the departure in late March of his brother, A. William. “Bill” Erpenbeck. He did not return phone calls to comment on hiring Mr. Barrett.

        Mr. Barrett did acknowledge Friday that he has been retained by Jeff Erpenbeck but would not comment further.

        The FBI in Cincinnati has confirmed it is investigating the Erpenbeck Co. for bank fraud. No charges have been filed.

        The company, under Bill Erpenbeck, diverted $15 million in checks written to pay off mortgage and construction loans into Erpenbeck business accounts at Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky in Crestview Hills, according to bank officials and lawsuits filed against the bank and the Erpenbeck Co.

Click here for all Enquirer reports on Erpenbeck Co.
If you have any additional information on the business dealings of the Erpenbeck Co. or Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky - or on the involvement of any parties not yet identified in our coverage - please email Enquirer business reporter James McNair at or Kentucky Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley at
        The Erpenbecks have been sued by homeowners whose mortgages were supposed to be paid off with those misdirected checks; by banks seeking repayment of loans; and by contractors seeking payment for work done at Erpenbeck houses and condominiums.

        Mr. Barrett, 51, is a partner at the downtown Cincinnati firm of Barrett & Weber. He was an assistant county prosecutor in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

        Mr. Barrett then went into private practice.

        His clients have included the late Marvin Warner, the one-time owner of failed Home State Savings Bank, and former Bengals star James Brooks, who in 1999 pleaded guilty to charges of failing to pay more than $110,000 to support two of his children.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen called Mr. Barrett “one of the top 10 trial attorneys in Cincinnati.”

        “He has great courtroom skills, he knows how to deal with people and he is a very formidable attorney,” Mr. Allen said. “Whoever hired him could not have made a better choice.”

        Mr. Barrett is chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party and a former University of Cincinnati trustee. He also is on a committee examining police and justice issues for Cincinnati CAN, or Community Action Now. That group was formed in the wake of last year's riots to seek ways to provide greater opportunity, equity and inclusion in the city.

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