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(© 2018 Journal GlobaLinks)



CHICAGO (JGL) – Will Judge Jessica Arong O'Brien be home for Christmas? Or will she be spending her time in jail?

Judge Thomas M. Durkin of the Northern District Court of Illinois in Chicago will answer this question when he comes down with his decision Thursday (Dec. 20) whether to give Jessica more than three years' sentence as recommended by the Probation Officer, a two-year sentence favored by the U.S. Attorney of Illinois or a probation (no jail time) that Jessica and several dozens of her colleagues in the legal industry and even classmates from her high school and elementary school grades in her native Cebu City in the Philippines are seeking to be imposed.

Because 51-year-old O'Brien had lied in her income and concealed liabilities on her loan applications to finance the purchase of an investment property on 46th Street in Chicago, Illinois in 2004 and bought a second property on 54th St. in 2005 and inflated it when she was not yet a Cook County judge, the Probation Officer told Judge Durkin that Jessica should be sentenced from 37-46 (three years to 3.8 years) because she did not “show remorse” and did not assume “responsibility” which should “punish the defendant and to deter other would-be white-collar defendants” from committing the same fraud.

While the U.S. Attorney led by John R. Lausch, Jr. and his assistant Matthew F. Madden agree with the Probation Officer, they told Judge Durkin that “[a] sentence of 24 months' incarceration in this case would deter others from committing fraud, promote respect for the law, and would provide just punishment for defendant. Such a sentence would be a strong message to defendant and other would-be mortgage fraud defendants that their conduct is serious and will be punished accordingly.”


Last February, Ms. O'Brien was found guilty on two counts of mail fraud and bank fraud affecting a financial institution involving $1.4-M scheme by a 12-person jury full of women. After her post-trial motions were denied, Judge Durkin set the sentencing at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The U.S. government, represented by the U.S. Attorney, alleges in its sentencing memorandum that in the scheme that started in 2004, and continued in 2005 and in 2007, O”Brien “substantially inflated her income on applications to refinance the loans of those properties in in 2005; lied about her real estate company's revenue, profits and liabilities in order to obtain a loan that was used to maintain the investment properties.

She sold the properties to a straw buyer (Christopher Kwan) in 2007 and paid kickbacks to the true buyer (Maria Bartko) out of the proceeds of the sales. Unsurprisingly, the properties ended up in the foreclosure and the lenders lost approximately $660,000.”

Regarding the “unidentified fraudulently obtained loan” alleged by the U.S. government, O'Brien said the government did not provide “details regarding the loan, no documentation was submitted to support the fraud allegation, and no loan was identified.”

As to the government's claims that she fibbed concerning her average monthly sales, her actual sales, and misrepresented her “liquid assets/cash in bank,” O'Brien said there is no suggestion from any witness there was fraud.


Moreover, a $30,000 liquid asset balance was likely far understated because in each of the years reflected in the tax returns, Ms. O'Brien and her husband had treasury notes, certificates of deposit, and investment accounts exceeding $30,000.

As to the actual sales, the lender would have had to, as required by SBA (Small Business Association) regulations, verify the information by obtaining a copy of the tax returns and other financial information.

O'Brien contends that her 2010 SBA loan was a properly obtained legitimate loan that was fully paid on time.

For her part, Jessica argued that she should be given probation among others because when the charges with fraud were filed, they were filed “ten days short of statute of limitation.”

She quoted FBI agent Kaiser's recognition that there was no evidence of recruitment by Ms. O'Brien of Christopher Kwan or Maria Bartko at the time Bartko and Kwan were purchasing the properties for investment. O'Brien added both Kwan and Bartko “had every intention to pay both loans. The eventual foreclosure were the result of the recession, not a pre-determined plan.”

In making a case to keep her out of jail, her lawyer Steven A. Greenberg told Judge Durkin in her sentencing memorandum: “Jessica has already lost everything she has worked so hard for: her career, her reputation, her social network, and her standing in the community.

She has spent many sleepless nights in the quiet sanctuary of the church, contemplating an uncertain and drastically altered future.

Her family has also endured the emotional stress of supporting her through this ordeal and coming to terms with the possibility of losing her as a wife and mother for an unknown period of time.

Despite Jessica's many years of dedicated service to others, she faces the lonely proposition of rebuilding her life.

As this Court contemplates the appropriate sentence, Jessica's good deeds, contributions, and the losses she has already sustained should be given due consideration.” (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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