Thursday, April 13, 2017

Greedy and Stupid

Judge indicted for alleged fraudulent mortgage scheme

Obrien 4-12-17,ph02
Jessica A. O’Brien
By Lauraann Wood
Law Bulletin staff writer
This story has been updated.

A federal grand jury has indicted Cook County Circuit Judge Jessica A. O’Brien and one other person today on charges they misled mortgage lenders to obtain and refinance $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans.
The 12-page indictment alleges O’Brien and co-defendant Maria Bartko engaged in a scheme to defraud lenders and obtain money and property by concealing material facts on several mortgage documents submitted to financial lenders such as Citibank, New Century Mortgage Corp. and First Magnus Financial Corp. between 2004 and 2007.
Both women were charged with one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution. O'Brien was
additionally charged with one count of bank fraud.
Arraignment at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse is scheduled for April 20 at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan, according to court records.

O’Brien, 49, became a judge in 2012 after running unopposed in both the Democratic primary and November general election. She was assigned to the 1st Municipal District.

In a written statement, Chief Circuit Judge Timothy C. Evans’ office said that Circuit Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr., the 1st Municipal District's  presiding judge, has re-assigned O'Brien to non-judicial duties, such as conducting marriage ceremonies, until the circuit court’s executive committee can meet early next week.

O’Brien, who was a recurring Lawyers’ Forum guest columnist in the Daily Law Bulletin for several months in 2015, could not be reached for comment.
According to the indictment, O’Brien was a special assistant Illinois attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue while working part-time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Corp. in Lincolnwood during the years at issue. Bartko worked as a loan officer at Amronbanc at the time.

In August 2004, according to the indictment, O’Brien submitted mortgage loan documents to finance the purchase of a property at 625 W. 46th St. The indictment alleges O’Brien claimed she was earning $6,800 monthly from the Illinois Department of Revenue and knew such a representation was false.

It also alleges she represented to the mortgage lender that she disclosed all of her liabilities on the application, despite not including $260,000 in liability for a different property she and another person — identified as Individual A in the indictment — owned elsewhere in the city.

O’Brien purchased a property located at 823 W. 54th one month after purchasing the 46th Street property, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that in September 2005, O’Brien, using Bartko as loan originator, submitted applications to refinance the mortgages on both properties.

On those applications, the indictment alleges, O’Brien falsely indicated she worked solely for O’Brien Realty when she was actually working full-time for the Illinois Department of Revenue. She also falsely represented that she earned $20,000 monthly from O’Brien Realty, according to the indictment.

O’Brien submitted documents to JPMorgan Chase Bank in November 2006 to obtain a commercial line of credit for O’Brien Realty. The indictment alleges that O’Brien told Chase that the realty business earned $150,000 in annual revenue and $100,000 in annual profit when she knew the information was false.

In March 2007, O’Brien agreed to sell the two properties to Bartko, the indictment alleges. But because Bartko did not have good enough credit to qualify for loans, the two also agreed they would recruit another person — identified as Buyer A in court records — to buy the properties. Both defendants knew they’d be providing false information to the lenders, the indictment alleges.

O’Brien paid both Bartko and Buyer A to purchase the two properties and knew her payments would be concealed from the lenders, according to the indictment.

O’Brien and Buyer A also signed and submitted documents to the lenders indicating they’d submitted accurate statements of all parts of the transactions for the properties, and O’Brien concealed Bartko’s status as a buyer by omitting her name from the documents, according to the indictment.

She also allegedly inflated the properties’ sales prices on the loan application forms, which the document also alleges falsely indicated that Buyer A “intended to occupy as his primary residence the 46th Street property and the 54th Street property, respectively” and inflated his income.

To establish the count for mail fraud, prosecutors allege that in April 2007 O’Brien shipped a $297,208.96 check through United Parcel Service to Chase for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud, a violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1341.

To establish the count for bank fraud, a violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1344, the indictment alleges that O’Brien in April 2007 caused Citibank to fund a $73,000 mortgage for Buyer A’s purchase of the 46th Street property.

According to a written statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office accompanying the indictment, the charges of mail fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud are each punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

O’Brien served as the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois president last year — the same year in which she received the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago’s trailblazer award.

FALA president Lesley R. Arca and immediate past president Christine A. Pompa could not be reached for comment. WBAI president Adria E. Mossing declined comment.

The federal criminal case is United States v. Jessica Arong O’Brien, et al., 17 CR 239.


  1. Anonymous4/13/2017

    O'Brien's husband is also a Cook County judge.

  2. Anonymous4/13/2017