Judges Want to Hide their Personal Information and Finances Away from the Public Purview. Here’s One of Many Examples Why That Cannot Be Allowed.
Jessica O”Brien’s husband is also a judge. She’s refusing to resign her bar license and now in 2021, the commission is seeking disbarment, which is mandatory when you’re a convicted felon.
June 2021: Ex-Judge Should Be Disbarred, Ill. Attorney Conduct Panel Says
Illinois’ attorney regulator has recommended disbarment for former Cook County Judge Jessica A. O’Brien who was convicted and imprisoned last year for running a mortgage fraud scheme involving two Chicago investment properties, saying the move is necessary to protect the public.
Federal Grand Jury Indicts “Illinois Attorney” in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
APR 12, 2017| REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 23, 2021
An Illinois attorney has been indicted by a federal grand jury for fraudulently obtaining loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side.
JESSICA ARONG O’BRIEN fraudulently caused lenders to issue and refinance approximately $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans by making false representations and concealing material facts in documents submitted to the lenders, according to an indictment returned in federal court in Chicago.
O’Brien used the fraudulently obtained mortgage loan proceeds to purchase an investment property in the 600 block of West 46th Street in Chicago, and fraudulently refinanced the mortgage on the property as well as on a second investment property in the 800 block of West 54th Street in Chicago, the indictment states. O’Brien then fraudulently obtained a commercial line of credit to maintain the properties, before selling them to co-defendant MARIA BARTKO (who would later be sentenced to 7 months in jail) and a straw buyer whom O’Brien knew would fraudulently obtain mortgage loans, according to the indictment.
The indictment charges O’Brien, 49, of Chicago, and Bartko, 49, of Chicago, with one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution. O’Brien is also charged with one count of bank fraud. Arraignment is set for April 20, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan.
The indictment was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Catherine Huber, Special Agent in Charge of the Midwest Region of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.
At the time of the alleged scheme, O’Brien was employed full time as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue, while also owning a real estate company, O’Brien Realty LLC, and working part time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Corp. in Lincolnwood, the indictment states.
It was at Amronbanc where O’Brien met Bartko, who was employed there as a loan officer.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mail fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud are each punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew F. Madden and Tyler C. Murray.
Judicial board seeks to remove Illinois judge who won’t step down after conviction
JUN 20, 2018 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 23, 2021
A judicial board has taken a first step to remove an Illinois judge convicted of mortgage fraud who refuses to resign.
The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board filed a complaint on Tuesday against Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien of Cook County, report the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. The complaint asks the Illinois Courts Commission to suspend O’Brien’s pay until a hearing on her removal.
The complaint says the Illinois Constitution bars O’Brien from judicial office because she is not currently licensed to practice law.
O’Brien’s law license has been temporarily suspended pending further disciplinary proceedings. Yet she has filed paperwork to seek retention as a judge in the November election, according to the judicial board.
O’Brien is paid more than $195,000 a year. She was switched to administrative duties after her April 2017 indictment, but a spokesperson for Cook County’s chief judge says O’Brien is no longer doing that work, according to the Sun-Times.
O’Brien was convicted in February based on allegations that she defrauded lenders a decade ago. She was accused of making $325,000 by selling two homes in 2007 to straw purchasers who later defaulted on mortgage payments, according to prior coverage by the Chicago Tribune.
O’Brien’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, told the Tribune and Sun-Times that the courts commission doesn’t have jurisdiction because the conviction was for conduct that occurred before O’Brien became a judge. He also said there are post-trial motions pending and the court has not entered a final judgment.
‘Illinois judge’ convicted of fraud no longer on the bench, state high court says
SEP 13, 2018 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 23, 2021
Jessica Arong O’Brien, convicted of mortgage fraud in February, is no longer a judge in Cook County, Illinois, the state supreme court has concluded.
An announcement said O’Brien told the Illinois Supreme Court on Feb. 21 that she would resign if post-trial motions for acquittal or a new trial were denied. A federal judge denied those motions on Sept. 4, making O’Brien’s resignation effective on that date, the court said.
O’Brien had dropped her bid for retention in a November election on Sept. 5, but did not announce a resignation at that time. She has been performing administrative duties since being indicted in April 2017.
O’Brien’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, told the Sun-Times that O’Brien has sent in resignation paperwork “as she said she would.”
O’Brien was convicted of mail and bank fraud in a $1.4 million mortgage fraud scheme from 2004 to 2007 involving two straw buyers of investment properties who later defaulted on payments.
During that time, O’Brien owned a real estate company, worked part-time as a loan originator with another real estate company and was a lawyer with the Illinois Department of Revenue.
O’Brien’s law license had been placed on interim suspension in April. The Illinois Courts Commission was reviewing O’Brien’s case and had scheduled a hearing for Sept. 24.
O’Brien’s sentencing hearing in the criminal case is Oct. 9.
‘Rags to riches’ immigrant who became first Filipina judge in Chicago’s Cook County says she is ‘an embarrassment’ as she is jailed for a year over $1.4MILLION mortgage fraud scam
Jessica Arong O’Brien, 51, was the first Filipina judge in Cook County, Chicago
O’Brien was convicted of lying to lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two investment properties a decade before she took the bench
She was handed a one year prison sentence after a judge denied her probation, saying the fraud scheme lasted nearly three years, and wasn’t done on impulse
DEC 20, 2018 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 23, 2021
A woman who became the first Filipina judge in Cook County, Chicago, has been handed a one year prison sentence after she was found guilty of taking part in a $1.4 million mortgage fraud scheme.
Jessica Arong O’Brien, 51, was a respected jurist and civic leader in Cook County before a 2017 indictment and the ensuing court case where she was convicted of two counts of scamming several lenders in the purchase of two South Side properties. She was convicted by a federal jury in February.
The mortgage fraud scheme took place a decade before O’Brien took the bench, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
O’Brien was reassigned to administrative duties following her 2017 indictment and resigned from her post earlier this year.
Appearing in court on Thursday for sentencing, O’Brien, who is married to Cook County Judge Brendan O’Brien, read out a tearful statement before the court.
‘I’m an embarrassment,’ she said, before brushing off her lawyer who had approached the lectern to try to cut her off.
O’Brien spoke of how she ‘should have known better’ as a lawyer that she was committing fraud and focused on how she’d shamed her family and lost a career she loved.
‘Of all those things that everyone has told you about me, one thing was missing — stupid,’ O’Brien said. ‘I mean, seriously. This whole process is crazy. I can’t put my hands on it.’
‘Of course, I have remorse as to my stupidity,’ O’Brien added.
She told the court how her behavior had ruined her husband’s name. She also blamed family issues in 2003 when she said she decided to get into the real estate game.
O’Brien went on to say she hoped her fall from grace would be a lesson to other lawyers and how they would be held to a higher standard.
‘I hope some day when I am 6 feet under, they will learn from what happened here,’ she said.
The trial had placed a good deal of focus on O’Brien’s backstory as a Filipina immigrant who came to the U.S. as a 16 year old with almost nothing. She enrolled in a community college but was told she was not ready to take college course and put in a remedial program. O’Brien had worked her way up the career ladder.
The 51-year-old has degrees in culinary arts and restaurant management. Later, she decided to study law and in 1998 she graduated from the John Marshall Law School.
She was the first Asian elected president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and co-founded a foundation that awards scholarships to law students from diverse backgrounds.
In a profile interview for abc7 in May 2016 she said: ‘I really believe that being the first, although it is a true honor, it is also a huge responsibility because I have to make sure I pursue excellence in everything that I do.’
In the profile clip, Timothy Evans, chief judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County lauded her saying:
‘She’s open, optimistic, welcoming and tenacious. She wants people to be accountable for their conduct but she’s fair, committed to justice, and sees that as a way of life and one that she perpetuates, believes in and practices every day.’
Speaking with law clerks and attorneys for the piece they recalled that she was ‘inspirational, empowering and strong’.
Law students also recalled a trip she had organized to take them to Washington DC to meet Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg and they visited the West Wing of the White House.
Her lawyer, Steve Greenberg told the court, as he argued for O’Brien’s probation that hers was an inspirational story.
‘She has fallen as far as she can fall. She has lost everything… There is absolutely no reason to send this poor lady to jail,’ Greenberg said.
O’Brien was convicted of lying to lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two investment properties in Chicago that she bought and sold between 2004 and 2007 while owning a real estate company.
At the same time she was a a special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue.
Prosecutors had alleged O’Brien made at least a $325,000 profit from the transactions by unloading the two homes and paying kickbacks to a straw purchaser.
The straw purchaser defaulted on payments causing losses to lenders and ending with the properties winding up in foreclosure.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Madden told the jurors in February that O’Brien had ‘used lies to buy and sell these properties.’
Madden asked for a two-year prison sentence for O’Brien saying her success story was an aggravating factor because she didn’t have a financial need to commit fraud but she did so regardless.
In denying O’Brien’s and her lawyer’s request for probation, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin said the fraud scheme had lasted nearly three years and wasn’t done on impulse.
‘This wasn’t stupid,’ Durkin said. ‘This was a crime… You really didn’t need to do this.’
Nearly two dozen of O’Brien’s relatives and supporters listened intently to proceedings in the gallery.