Jury convicts Cook County judge of mortgage fraud, could face 30 year prison sentence

By The Cook County Record | Feb 15, 2018

A federal jury in Chicago has convicted a Cook County judge of mortgage fraud stemming from an alleged scheme in which prosecutors said she participated a few years before she was elected to the Cook County bench.

On Feb. 15, Jessica Arong O’Brien was convicted of “fraudulently obtaining loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side,” according to a statement from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

O’Brien, 50, was convicted of a count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution and another count of bank fraud. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s statement, she could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Sentencing is set for July 6 before U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch said evidence showed, from 2004 to 2007, O’Brien teamed with mortgage loan officer Maria Bartko and “a straw buyer whom O’Brien knew,” to allegedly defraud lenders into issuing and refinancing $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans “by making false representations and concealing material facts in documents submitted to the lenders.”

According to federal prosecutors, O’Brien used mortgage loans to purchase investment properties in the 600 block of West 64th Street and the 800 block of West 54th Street in Chicago.

“O’Brien then fraudulently obtained a commercial line of credit to maintain the properties, before selling them to … Bartko” who would work with the straw buyer to allegedly obtain fraudulent mortgage loans, prosecutors said.

Bartko earlier pleaded guilty to a count of mail fraud, prosecutors said. Her sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

O’Brien, of Chicago, was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012, running unopposed in both the Democratic primary election and the November general election.

Before becoming a judge, O’Brien had worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue in Chicago, and part-time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Company in Lincolnwood, according to federal court documents.

Bartko worked as a licensed loan originator at Amronbanc.

After O’Brien was indicted in April 2017, the office of Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans said she had been reassigned from her courtroom at the First Municipal District to “non-judicial duties.”

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U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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