[box type=”default” size=”large”] Cebu-born judge faces 20-year jail term if convicted [/box]
CHICAGO — Filipino-American Cook County Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien was indicted last April 11 by a grand jury of two counts of loan mortgage fraud involving $1.4 million, bringing to a halt the meteoric rise in the legal profession of a once depressed girl raised by her grandmother in Cebu, Philippines.
Obrien became the first Filipino-American and first Asian-American president of the 101-year-old Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI).
O’Brien, 49, and her partner in her realty business she set up before becoming a Cook County judge were also charged with forfeiture. If they lose, the United States government would confiscate the proceeds from the sale of two properties they were trying to refinance allegedly with the use of fraudulent schemes.
Reached for comment through her Facebook page by this reporter, the Cebu-born lawyer said, “Hi Joe! Unfortunately, I cannot give any interviews right now. If and when that changes, I will let you know. Thank you so much for your support.”
She and her co-defendant Maria Bartko, a loan originator in her family-owned O’Brien Realty were scheduled for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan of the U.S. Northern District Court of Illinois in Chicago at 10 a.m. last April 20.
In the meantime, Circuit Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr., presiding judge of the First Municipal District, reassigned O’Brien to “non-judicial duties” until the executive committee of the Circuit Court meets soon to discuss her case, the office of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said.
Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 56, a judge may be temporarily reassigned to restricted or other than judicial duties whenever there are charges or implications of improper conduct.
Court records obtained by this reporter show that in a Special December 2016 grand jury charges, O’Brien, while an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois, a licensed loan originator and licensed real estate broker and owner of O’Brien Realty, LLC, was also employed full-time as special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue in Chicago and part-time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Corp. in Lincolnwood, Illinois.
Her co-defendant, Maria Bartko, a licensed loan originator in Illinois, was employed as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage.
Mortgage lenders usually require mortgage loan applicants to provide truthful information, including the applicant’s financial condition, employment, income liabilities, intention to occupy the property, the buyer’s identify, any payments made to the buyer for purchasing the property, and the sales price of the property. Lenders also require commercial loan applicants to provide truthful information, including the applicant’s financial condition and income.
Lenders often sell the mortgage loans to other lenders and institutions (“successors”).
Court records show that from 2004 to 2007, O’Brien and Bartko, along with others, fraudulently caused lenders to issue and refinance mortgage and commercial loans for $1,400,000 through fraudulent scheme by purchasing properties at 625 West 46th St. and 823 West 54th St., both in Chicago, before selling the two properties to Bartko and Buyer A, “a straw buyer whom O’Brien and Bartko knew would be fraudulently qualified for mortgage loans.”
In her loan application, O’Brien claimed her income from the “Illinois Department of Revenue was $6,800 per month, knowing that the said income was false.”
O’Brien also submitted to the lender a certification of borrower income “knowing that the certification was false.”
O’Brien likewise purchased the 54th Street and 46th Street properties in a period of one month with Bartko as loan originator with the applications containing “materially false statements regarding O’Brien’s income and employment.”
In her loan refinance application, O’Brien claimed her only employer was O’Brien Realty when she was working full-time as an attorney for the Illinois Department of Revenue.
O’Brien also claimed in her loan application that her income from O’Brien Realty was $20,000 per month, knowing the represented income was false.
In applying for a line of credit, O’Brien claimed her O’Brien Realty’s annual revenue was $150,000 and annual profit was $100,000, knowing that the represented revenue and profit information were false.
It was further alleged that O’Brien paid Bartko and Buyer A to purchase the two properties, knowing that these payments were concealed from the lenders funding the mortgage loans.
On or about April 16, 2017, O’Brien and Bartko deposited, sent and delivered by United Parcel Service an envelope containing a payoff check of $297,208.96 addressed to LSAMS1 Payoff Department OH4-7137, Chase Home Finance, 3415 Vision Drive Columbus, OH for both properties.
O’Brien and Bartko were charged with violation of Title 18, USC, Section 1341, which may impose on them imprisonment of not more than 20 years.
Judge O’Brien received her Bachelor of Science in hotel administration and a minor in financial management from Boston University.
In 1998, she earned her JD/LL.M degrees (taxation) from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She had the distinction as the first student to complete both degrees in just three years. In 2002, she received her second LL.M. degree with honors from the same school.