BOSTON, Mass. – After winning guilty verdicts against top Enron executives in one of the most high-profile cases of corporate fraud, the lead prosecutor declared: “No matter how rich and powerful you are, you have to play by the rules.”
More than a decade later, that same lawyer, Sean Berkowitz, is fighting to clear “Full House" star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, of charges that they used their wealth and privilege to skirt the rules in the college admissions process.
And he will be a formidable foe for prosecutors looking to put the famous couple behind bars, former colleagues say.
“Sean is a prosecutor's worst nightmare," said Jeffrey Cramer, who was in the U.S. attorney's office with him in Chicago. “If Sean has anything to work with at trial, he can show reasonable doubt."
Berkowitz and the couple's other high-powered attorneys are hoping to help Loughlin and Giannulli avoid the same fate as other prominent parents who've landed in prison for participating in a college admissions cheating scheme that has rocked the world of higher education.
A Chicago-area native who led the special Justice Department task force that investigated the Enron scandal, Berkowitz has a reputation for being fearless yet cool-headed and a master at navigating complex cases. Lawyers who've worked with him say he's meticulous and unflappable with a Midwestern charm that makes him persuasive to juries.
“He’s very comfortable in the courtroom," said David Hoffman, who worked as a federal prosecutor alongside him and remains a close friend.
“He's very genuine, he's very relaxed ... and that I think comes across to everyone who's with him," said Hoffman, now a white collar lawyer in Chicago.