The state’s highest court has ordered a Cook County judge convicted of mortgage fraud to present the court with reasons why the state should not yank her license to practice law and should not bar her from continuing to hold office as a judge.
On Feb. 27, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order, giving Jessica Arong O’Brien until April 3 to “show cause, in writing, why she should not be suspended from the practice of law effective immediately and until further order of the Court … and why she should not be enjoined from acting as a judge until further order of the Court.”
The order was issued 12 days after a federal jury convicted O’Brien on counts of mail fraud and bank fraud for her alleged role in a scheme federal prosecutors said involved using a straw buyer to falsely obtain “loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side.”
According to prosecutors, the alleged incidents occurred from 2004-2007, before O’Brien was elected to the Cook County Circuit Court bench in 2012 as a Democrat running unopposed.
Federal prosecutors said evidence showed 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.
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.
O’Brien, 50, is scheduled to be sentenced in July, and could face 30 years in prison, according to federal prosecutors.
Since she was indicted in April 2017, O’Brien had been reassigned by Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans to “non-judicial duties.”
In its order, the Illinois Supreme Court said the administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission had filed a petition with the court informing the Supreme Court justices of the charges against O’Brien disposition of her case, and seeking court orders suspending O’Brien’s law license and removing her from the bench.
According to the order, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride did not take part in the action.