- Patricia Martin, who sat on the Cook County bench for 24 years, was responsible for managing the savings of Oscar Wilkerson Jr.
- But her family and the state's legal disciplinary agency say she stole $240,000 of her money and gobbled up more than $100,000 in cryptocurrency.
- Wilkerson was a highly decorated Tuskegee airman and civil rights pioneer who was one of the first black military pilots to fight for the United States during the war.
A former top Illinois judge accused of stealing the life savings of a World War II hero has been ordered to repay $1.2 million.
Patricia Martin, who sat on the Cook County bench for 24 years, was responsible for managing the savings of Oscar Wilkerson Jr.
But her family and the state forensic disciplinary agency say she stole $240,000 of her money and gobbled up more than $100,000 in cryptocurrency, according to ABC Chicago.
Wilkerson was a highly decorated Tuskegee airman and civil rights pioneer who was one of the first black military pilots to fight for the United States in the war before settling in Chicago.
He trusted Martin, who is his ex-wife's niece, to take care of his finances as his health deteriorated, but sued her last September and said she had taken advantage of his old age and hid his retirement money.
The veteran died a day before his 97th birthday on February 8, and Cook County Circuit Judge Anna Demacopoulos ordered Martin to pay $1.2 million on May 24 due to "continued callousness by the accused".
Wilkerson spent his final days at an Orland Park seniors' residence while Martin took care of his bank, 401k, and Social Security accounts.
She was a judge for 24 years and chair of the Cook County Juvenile Court's Child Protection Division when she retired in 2020, a month after taking control of Wilkerson's finances.
In April 2022, she reported he had about $50,000 in her checking account and $120,000 in a retirement account, according to the lawsuit.
But alarm bells rang in July when Wilkerson was reportedly told he owed the retirement home he lived in $41,296.10 because payments had not been made in recent months.
He discovered that his accounts had been “emptied” and it was unclear where his Social Security and pension payments were deposited, according to court documents.
Martin did not respond to questions about where the money went or requests for information during the litigation, according to court records.
And in October, Wilkerson's attorneys said they were raising concerns with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the Illinois Department of Aging.
They claimed that former Justice Martin had “dissipated funds and could engage in risky crypto transactions that threaten the remaining funds that exist” less than a month later.
Following Wilkerson's death, Martin was then ordered by Judge Demacopoulos "to refrain from transferring or using any other funds" during a hearing on April 6.
Wilkerson's attorneys obtained records through a subpoena that showed his money was wired to cryptocurrency exchange accounts that were emptied, according to a May 11 filing.
The latest transactions took place between April 6 and April 28 and totaled $2,875.29 and went against the judge's order.
The veteran's lawyers then wrote to the judge asking Martin to demonstrate why she should not be held in contempt of court and ordering her to return the money and show where she put it.
They then reported that a total of $383,236.75 had been withdrawn from his accounts and that other people had to band together to pay the money owed to Wilkerson's nursing home.
And the attorneys asked that Martin be disciplined for failing to answer questions or provide information about where the money went and asked for a default judgment of $1,229,384.31.
This order was signed and granted by Judge Demacopoulos on May 24 and Martin was ordered to pay more than three times what she would have taken for damages, fees and court costs.
Martin reportedly texted Wilkerson's lawyers last October that she "did not deny or admit any of the allegations."
One of his lawyers replied that "that says a lot and is indeed an admission of wrongdoing on your part."
Martin promised to “transfer remaining funds,” court documents containing the text exchange showed.
"As a former lawyer and judge, you fully understand that returning stolen funds does not nullify the crime," the lawyer replied.
"I'm also sure you understand that neither I nor anyone involved here are confident that you will actually return any funds weeks from now."
A week after Judge Demacopoulos' ruling in May, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) filed a lawsuit against Martin.
The state's legal disciplinary agency alleged that she "used at least $246,203.80 of…funds without her authorization for personal gain" to purchase "cryptocurrency she held in her own name." and over which it maintained exclusive control".
And he accused her of “emptying her accounts to the point … that the assisted living facility had not been paid”.
The complaint also said Martin filed a filing in the civil case in which she 'admitted that she wrongfully assumed control' of the veteran's finances and 'intentionally deprived' him of his money. .
The ARDC said it must either fight the allegations or accept them, which could result in its disbarment.
During her career, Martin was nominated by former President Barack Obama to join the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect in 2013.
Wilkerson joined the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black air force combat unit, after leaving high school in 1944.
The group faced significant racial discrimination during their service due to segregation from the military at the time.
“The army had no intention of using black pilots. The real mission, the underlying mission, was for us to fail and prove their point,' Wilkerson previously said in an interview.
But their bravery during the war helped pave the way for desegregation. They received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.
He frequently visited churches and schools to tell how Tuskegee Airmen broke the stereotype that black men couldn't be fighter pilots.
Wilkerson, the last known surviving member of the group in Chicago, used to introduce children to aviation and take them on their first flights for free through the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program.
He also worked as a DJ and hosted his own radio show until his retirement.