Pinay judge in Illinois facing fraud charges

Connie Macatula-DeLeon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2017 11:27 AM | Updated as of Apr 15 2017 09:21 AM

Judge Jessica Arong O'Brien

CHICAGO - Authorities announced on Wednesday that 49-year old Judge Jessica Arong O'Brien, a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, is facing federal fraud charges for providing false information to allegedly get loans for properties in Chicago, Illinois.

The well-respected and admired judge was charged with one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and one count of bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago.

The allegations happened before O'Brien became the first female Filipino-American judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2012.

Prosecutors indicted O'Brien for allegedly obtaining approval on loans "by making false representations and concealing material facts in documents submitted to the lenders."

The loans were reportedly used to purchase approximately $1.4 million worth of mortgages and investment properties between 2004 and 2007. During this time, O'Brien was a special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Department of Revenue and chief counsel to the Illinois Lottery.

Mail fraud and bank fraud are each punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Judge O'Brien in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN. Courtesy of Marlon Pecson

On the same day the charges were filed, O'Brien was reassigned to non-judicial duties. The executive committee will make a decision next week whether O'Brien will be removed from her position while the case is on-going.

O'Brien is married to a judge and they have three daughters. She moved to the United States when she was 16 and earned her bachelor's degree in hotel and food administration from Boston University. She also has a Masters of Laws in Employee Benefits and Taxation from the John Marshall Law School.

O'Brien co-founded the Diversity Scholarship Foundation, and has been a recipient of multiple leadership awards, including President Obama's Call-to-Service Award.

In a conversation with O’Brien, she wrote that she will plead "not guilty" to all charges brought against her. She has been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by the members of the legal community and the community at large. She said that "we should all be reminded that I am innocent until proven guilty."

Arraignment is set for April 20 at 10 a.m. CST before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan at the Federal Court in Chicago, Illinois.

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