Cook County Circuit Court Judge pleads not guilty to financial fraud charges

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jessica A. O’Brien plead not guilty Wednesday morning at the arraignment for the federal financial fraud charges brought against her.

O’Brien was indicted this month on mail and bank fraud charges for allegedly deceiving mortgage lenders to refinance $1.4 million in loans, then using those funds to buy an investment property. The indictment alleges she then fraudulently refinanced that investment property and one other property between 2004 and 2007. The charges are from a time span prior to her tenure as a Cook County judge.

The crimes O’Brien is charged with have maximum penalties of 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

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Prosecutors requested that Judge O’Brien’s unsecured bond amount be increased from $4,500 to $100,000 based on the large income both she and her husband, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Brendan A. O’Brien, make collectively.

Illinois Northern District Court Judge Sheila M. Finnegan denied the request, and said that “I don’t think there is any evidence of risk of flight.”

Prosecutors also said the government had gathered between 50,000 and 100,000 pages of records and had conducted several interviews for the case. Jessica O’Brien’s attorney, Ricardo Meza, said his client is interested in a speedy trial.

O’Brien was removed from hearing cases and has been assigned to non-judicial duties, according to Chief Judge Timothy Evans’s office.