Residency statements on mortgage documents leads to ethics complaint against Cook County judge

Bethany Krajelis Feb. 9, 2015, 1:46pm

The state agency charged with investigating allegations of judicial misconduct filed a complaint last week against a Cook County judge it asserts made false statements about her residency on mortgage documents for a home she owns outside of her subcircuit.

In a Feb. 6 complaint, the Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) accuses Cook County Circuit Judge Beatriz Santiago of bringing "the judicial office into disrepute" by making misrepresentations to deceive her mortgage lender. 

The JIB filed the complaint with the Illinois Courts Commission, which, if it determines misconduct occurred, can impose discipline on state judges that ranges from reprimand or censure to suspension or removal from the bench.  

The complaint against Santiago alleges that from about June 2013 to March 2014, the judge who was elected to the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit in 2012 "attempted to and did deceive her mortgage lender by making several misrepresentations in her mortgage application documents" for a home she owns on North Spaulding Avenue. 

Santiago's statements, the JIB contends, caused her lender to believe her primacy residence was the Spaulding Avenue property and that planned to live there within 60 days of signing the mortgage agreement even though she resided in property on West Potomac Avenue.

The complaint notes that had Santiago lived in the Potomac Avenue property, which is located in the Seventh Judicial Subcircuit, she would not have been eligible to run for the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit seat she was elected to. She is currently assigned to the traffic section for the 1st Municipal District.

In her candidacy paperwork she filed in November 2011, Santiago listed her residency as the Potomac Avenue property that the complaint notes is owned by her parents.

Before the primacy, an objection was filed to her candidacy alleging she was ineligible to run for the Sixth judicial Subcircuit seat because she actually lived in the Spaulding Avenue property, which is located in the Seventh Judicial Subcircuit.

Before an election hearing officer in January 2012, the JIB complaint states that Santiago testified that she purchased the Spaulding Avenue property in 2005 and moved in two years later before moving back to her parents' Potomac Avenue property in August or September of 2011 to help care for her father.

During cross examination, however, the JIB notes Santiago admitted she had not complied with a clause in the mortgage agreement she signed in August 2005 that said she intended to live in the Spaulding Avenue property within 60 days, as well as an identical clause in 2007 paperwork for a refinancing of that mortgage.

The election hearing officer in late January 2012 issued a report, saying that while her testimony created some inconsistencies, it did not prove she did not live at the Potomac Avenue property in the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit. 

Santiago went on to win the Democratic primary and the November 2012 election before being sworn in as a judge in December 2012 for a term that expires in 2018.

But, the JIB contends Santiago went on to make more false statements in June 2013, when she submitted an application and related documents to refinance her 2007 mortgage on her Spaulding Avenue property.

She again represented that she lived in the Spaulding Avenue property and planned to occupy it as her primary residence within 60 days of executing the agreement, according to the JIB complaint that notes she signed several documents that explained the penalties of providing false information.

The bank didn't take notice that most of Santiago's documents listed the Potomac Avenue property as her primary residence, rather than the Spaulding Avenue property, until the underwriting process of her loan began in July 2013, the JIB contends.

After being asked for an explanation, the complaint states Santiago told her mortgage broker she uses her mother's Potomac Avenue address for all work-related matters.

She did not, however, disclose that she was also living there, a statement the JIB asserts was made in an attempt to mislead the bank into believing her Spaulding Avenue property was still her primary residence even though she couldn't live there and maintain eligibility to serve as a judge in the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit.

Following the exeuction of her 2013 refinancing agreement, the complaint states that Santiago continued to live in the Potomac Avenue property.

It wasn't until after WGN, as part of an investigation with Medill Watchdog, mentioned Santiago's residency issue on her mortgage paperwork in a series it aired that Santiago in March 2013 told her bank the Spaulding Avenue property was not her primary residence.

But, the complaint alleges, she did not disclose the fact she had never lived in that property as her primary residence, conduct the JIB contends constitutes a violation of Supreme Court Rules 61 and 62.

Those rules essentially require judges to maintain high standards of conduct so "the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."

Chicago attorneys John N. Gallo and Karim Basaria of Sidley Austin will prosecute the complaint on behalf of the JIB before the Courts Commission. It is unclear when the commission will hear the case against Santiago.

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