Former Illinois judge sentenced to year in prison for mortgage fraud

Jessica Arong O’Brien, the first Filipina judge elected in Chicago history, was convicted of fraudulently obtaining mortgage investment properties over the course of 3 years

A former Illinois judge cried in court as a judge sentenced her to a year in prison for mortgage fraud.

Jessica Arong O’Brien, who was nominated to be a judge in Illinois’ Cook County in 2012, was, on Friday, convicted of fraudulently obtaining mortgages for Chicago investment properties — and receiving more than $300,000 for herself illegally as a result.

The events for which she was convicted took place more than a decade before O’Brien became a judge and was working as a lawyer and real estate agent for a company she owned.

Earlier this year, a jury found O’Brien guilty of scamming lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two South Side investment properties that she bought and sold between 2004 and 2007 through her real estate company.

“I still think you have difficulty admitting you did anything wrong,” Judge Thomas Durkin told O’Brien, according to reporters who attended the sentencing. He denied her request for probation by saying that her scheme lasted almost three years and was therefore not done impulsively.

O’Brien cried openly in court, saying that she was “an embarrassment” and that she needs Durkin to “know the truth.”

While mortgage fraud is a common crime, O’Brien’s case is unusual because she was a sitting judge at the time of her indictment. After getting indicted in 2017, O’Brien was reassigned to administrative duties and officially resigned from her post as a judge earlier this year.

A Filipino-American, O’Brien was the first Asian elected president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and Cook County’s first Filipina judge.

Email Veronika Bondarenko