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Authorities open criminal investigation into former judge


Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into fraud allegations made against a former Cook County judge who has been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly man and using the funds to buy cryptocurrency, Cook County prosecutors said Monday during a court hearing.

Prosecutors also filed a petition for criminal contempt against Patricia Martin, who stepped down as presiding judge in the child protection division in 2020, a proceeding that could come with criminal penalties for the former judge. Martin was served with the petition Monday morning during a hearing at the Daley Center in a pending civil suit against her.

The contempt petition and the criminal investigation are the latest legal troubles faced by the former judge, who already been disbarred and has been ordered by a judge to pay a default judgment of more than $1.1 million in the civil case.

Martin was the subject of a fraud complaint filed in May the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which handles allegations of lawyer misconduct. It alleged that she stole from Oscar Wilkerson, an elderly man she was tasked with assisting financially and using the funds for her own purposes, including buying cryptocurrency.

Lawyers for Wilkerson also filed a lawsuit against Martin last year, which remains pending, though Cook County Judge Anna Demacopoulos in May ordered the default judgment due to Martin’s “continued unresponsiveness” to court orders after Martin failed to appear in court after being warned that noncompliance with the case could result in sanctions, including a default judgment.

Martin, though, has appeared in court for two recent hearings, and her attorneys are challenging the default judgment. Earlier this month, Martin filed a motion to dismiss the judgment, arguing, among other issues, that Wilkerson’s death in February left the case without a proper plaintiff.

Attorneys for Wilkerson, a former Tuskegee Airman, in May filed a petition seeking to hold Martin in criminal contempt of court orders that mandated that she participate in the case filed against her and not move any more of Wilkerson’s funds.

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In the petition, prosecutors alleged that Martin moved Wilkerson’s money after she was ordered not to by the judge.

Martin “willfully, knowingly, and contumaciously violated the court’s … order,” the petition alleges.

Cook County prosecutors filed the petition on Friday, but asked Demacopoulos to pause its implementation, citing the ongoing investigation. In response, the judge continued the case and refrained from holding a bond hearing.

“Based on the representation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that there is an ongoing criminal investigation concerning the entire matter … based on that, I will grant the stay of the petition will not set bond and will not arraign or advise Ms. Martin of her rights under this particular case,” Demacopoulos said.

She urged the prosecutors to keep an open line of communication with Wilkerson’s attorneys, adding that the plaintiff’s attorneys may decide not to proceed with the civil case, including the contempt charge, if criminal charges are filed. The judge told the parties they don’t need to “duplicate litigation where it’s not necessary.”

Martin is scheduled to appear in court again in October.

mabuckley@chicagotribune.com



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