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Cook County judge indicted for role in mortgage fraud scheme

Jessica O’Brien accused of fraudulently obtaining $1.4 million in mortgage loans

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A Cook County, Illinois judge finds herself on the wrong end of criminal charges after federal authorities accused her of taking part in a $1.4 million mortgage fraud scheme.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Jessica O’Brien is facing one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution and one count of bank fraud for her role in a scheme involving false documentation and straw buyers.

The announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that O’Brien is an attorney, but this article from the Chicago Tribune lists O’Brien as a Cook County judge.

Here’s a little more on O’Brien from the Chicago Tribune:

A civic-minded judge whose inspiring rags-to-riches story helped her become the first Filipina elected to the Cook County bench was indicted Wednesday on mortgage fraud charges.

Judge Jessica A. O'Brien, who presided over a small-claims courtroom and had served in prominent roles on numerous bar association boards, allegedly lied and concealed relevant facts from lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two South Side investment properties that she purchased and sold between 2004 and 2007.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the alleged mortgage fraud scheme took place when O’Brien was employed full time as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue.

During that period, O’Brien also owned a real estate company, O’Brien Realty, and worked part-time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Corp.

While at Amronbanc, O’Brien met Maria Bartko, who worked there as a loan officer. Bartko also took part in the alleged scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, and is facing one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, O’Brien 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.”

Per court documents, O’Brien then used the fraudulently obtained mortgage loan proceeds to purchase an investment property in Chicago. O’Brien also allegedly fraudulently refinanced the mortgage on that property as well as on a second investment property in Chicago.

After that, O’Brien then fraudulently obtained a commercial line of credit to maintain the properties, the U.S. Attorney’s Office states.

O’Brien then sold the properties to Bartko and a straw buyer, despite O’Brien knowing that both parties would fraudulently obtain mortgage loans on the properties.

Both O’Brien and Bartko are scheduled to be arraigned on April 20. Mail fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud are each punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

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