Former US judge stole WW2 veteran’s savings for crypto, lawsuit claims

A former Illinois judge has been ordered to cough up $1.2 million after allegedly stealing over $380,000 from a WW2 veteran who entrusted her to manage his finances — instead, she pocketed the cash and spent it on cryptocurrency, according to the state.

95-year-old Oscar Wilkerson Jr. served as a pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen regiment, America’s first all-black aviation combat unit. After his military service during WW2, the veteran reportedly worked at radio stations in Chicago. In November 2020, Wilkerson was moved to an elderly home.

When his health declined, a friend was granted power of attorney. Wilkerson’s niece on his late wife’s side, County Judge Patricia Martin, was asked to help manage Wilkerson’s finances; she agreed to maintain his bank accounts and pension pots for his own benefit.

Martin was a judge in Cook County’s juvenile court for 24 years. However, she retired just one month after she agreed to help Wilkerson.

Lawsuit alleges judge spent savings on crypto

In April 2022, Martin reported that Wilkerson’s checking account held $50,000 and that there was $120,000 in his retirement account.

However, in July of last year, Wilkerson’s elderly home reached out to his doctor to let them know he was two months behind on his bills, owing the home $41,000. This is how Wilkerson discovered his bank accounts were actually empty.

He hired an attorney to investigate Martin, who eluded correspondence for weeks. With no way to pay, the elderly home had no choice but to terminate Wilkerson’s stay. Wilkerson sued Martin in September 2022.

In total, Martin took at least $380,000 of his funds and used the majority of it to buy “cryptocurrency that she held in her own name and over which she maintained exclusive control,” the lawsuit alleged.

Wilkerson’s family and the state believe that in December 2020, Martin closed out two of his bank accounts, withdrawing $115,000. Days later, Martin is said to have spent $110,000 on cryptocurrency for herself without the consent of Wilkerson or his power of attorney. 

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From February 2021 to October 2022, Martin is accused of spending even more of Wilkerson’s money “without authority, to make additional cryptocurrency purchases for her own benefit, as well as towards her own personal purposes.” 

In October, Martin told Wilkerson’s lawyers she was “not denying nor admitting to any of the allegations.” Attorney Eric Puryear wrote back, “Your most recent message, as well as your lack of response previously, speaks volumes and is indeed an admission of wrongdoing on your part,” (via Chicago Sun Times).

Martin ignored the court’s questions and requests to submit accounting throughout the litigation.

  • Cook County Circuit Judge Anna Demacopoulos ordered Martin to stop using Wilkerson’s money on April 6.
  • Martin appeared to violate this order — records obtained through a subpoena show she sent more money to a cryptocurrency exchange and drained the funds.
  • In response to Martin’s unwillingness to engage, Wilkerson’s lawyers requested a default judgement of over $1.2 million in damages and court fees to the Wilkerson estate. Demacopoulos granted the request on May 24.

Unfortunately, Wilkerson passed away in February 2023 before the matter was resolved. It remains unclear where the money will go.

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