Decade-old mortgage fraud catches up to Illinois judge

by Francis Monfort22 Feb 2018

A circuit court judge in Cook County, Ill., has been convicted over a $1.4 million federal mortgage scheme, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien’s verdict was announced by US District Judge Thomas Durkin, who set sentencing for July 6. O’Brien presided over a small-claims court until her indictment, upon which she was reassigned to administrative duties.

In his remarks, Assistant US Attorney Matthew Madden told jurors that O’Brien lied on loan and refinancing applications for two investment properties she bought in 2004 and 2005. In 2007, she sold the homes to a straw purchaser, thereby making a profit. Madden said O'Brien profited at least $325,000 from the transactions, also causing losses to lenders as the homes ended up in foreclosure after the straw purchases defaulted on payments.

During the course of the transactions, O’Brien was serving the state’s Department of Revenue as special assistant attorney general. She was also a real estate agent, owning her own company, and served as a loan originator part-time for Amronbanc Mortgage.

Ricardo Meza, attorney for O’Brien, said that she only made mistakes when reporting her income data and none of it was intentional.

Co-defendant Maria Bartko, who also worked for Amronbanc, took part in the scheme, according to prosecutors. Bartko pleaded guilty in January and agreed to testify against O’Brien under a plea deal. Prosecutors did not call her as a witness, however.

Although O’Brien carried out the transactions years before her election to the bench, Illinois law prohibits an elected official from remaining in office after a conviction. The Chicago Tribune said the timetable for her removal is unclear.

Related stories:
Judge tossed from bench over mortgage fraud charges
California charges 4 over $2M mortgage fraud scheme


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