State Rep. LaShawn Ford arraigned in federal court

Rep. Ford's lawyer calls charges 'garden variety'


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By LaRisa Lynch

Contributing Reporter

Attorneys for State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8) on Tuesday questioned the U.S. Attorney's office's decision to bring federal bank fraud charges against the West Side Democrat on what, the attorneys claim may amount to a mistake in paperwork. The argument took place as Ford was being arraigned in federal court in downtown Chicago.

Attorney Tom Durkin called the charges leveled against Ford "unfounded," and plans to vigorously defend his client against what Durkin called "garden variety" bank fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors charged Ford in a 17-count indictment that alleges he fraudulently-obtained a $500,000 increase, as well as a two-year extension, on a line of credit from the now-defunct ShoreBank in 2006. ShoreBank was shut down by federal regulators in 2010. Most of its assets and deposits were acquired from the FDIC by the newly formed Urban Partnership Bank.

"I think there should be questions raised as why at this stage of the game these charges would be brought five to six years later," Durkin told reporters after Ford's arraignment at the Dirksen Federal Building.

"These are garden variety bank fraud charges that have nothing whatsoever to do with his public office," Durkin added, expressing puzzlement that his client is the only person to be linked with the bank's failure.

"I am not aware of any other prosecutions coming out of that bank," Durkin said. "Why the only person that is prosecuted is a popular African-American legislator. I don't understand it."

The Nov. 29 indictment alleges Ford obtained multiple advances by making false statements about his intended use of the bank funds. The indictment also alleges that Ford diverted bank funds toward personal use: for car loans, credit cards, other mortgages owed by ShoreBank, payments to a casino in Hammond, and his 2006 campaign for state rep.

Durkin did not go into specifics of Ford's defense, but contended federal prosecutors may be hinging their case on a mistake "on a financial form" submitted to the bank.

"These cases are usually about numbers put in a form and there are questions about whether banks relied on it or not," Durkin said. "My point is that … when businesses and corporations submit loans, there is often a lot of mistakes made on numbers. And there are questions whether that was material the bank relied upon. I believe we are going to show that this bank was relying on his good character and his person."

Some 50 supporters for Ford took up six rows of seats in Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer's courtroom Tuesday. Ford dressed in a dark suit with a blue and striped tie was released on $4,500 unsecured bond.

Ford's attorneys also expressed surprise over the outpouring of support. Durkin called it amazing.

"You can't make this up. We didn't know that this was going to happen. You don't get people like this to come out and support you under circumstances like this unless you are a man of substance."

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 10:09 AM

The Federal Government might be of the opinion the Rep. Ford has knowledge of another offense another person committed. In order to get Ford to testify, they charged him. Stay tuned for Ford to plead guilty and testify against someone else.Local law enforcement makes singular arrests. Federal law enforcement prosecutes with the hopes of making additional arrests further down the road.

Eddie Money from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 9:50 AM

Doesn't the Federal government successfully prosecute in something like over 90% of its cases? If I was a gambling man (like Rep. Ford, allegedly), I would know who to put my money on!


Posted: December 13th, 2012 8:01 PM

I don't need a politician who needs to take out loans to pay off gambling debt. Let me guess, Jesse Junior is innocent of using campaign funds to furnish his lover with lavish gifts correct? You want to be an elected official, keep your nose clean and you won't find yourself in the mess.

Stand from Chicago   

Posted: December 12th, 2012 6:09 PM

We should be looking at the facts rather than condemning someone because he is a politician. Ford's line of credit was increased and rehabs approved according to the standards of Shore Bank, as had been done for the 15 years or more years he did business with the bank. In this case, the law requires proof of 'criminal intent' to defraud, of which none exists. If he were not a politician, we would not even be discussing this. Wanna use tax dollars to prosecute, where are the owners of the Bank?

OP Resident  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 1:49 PM

Cdonovan2 - It's alleged that Mr. Ford obtained loans for one purpose, and diverted some of the funds to pay personal expenses, including casino debts. Even to a layman like myself, that seems kinda illegal.


Posted: December 12th, 2012 1:19 PM

Hope he goes to jail if he did indeed break the law


Posted: December 12th, 2012 12:45 PM

Bob, the indictment lists 6 properties; four were resold with a profit, one seems to have been sold after a foreclosure, and there was still one oustanding mortgage. Considering the extent of the housing crisis and the impact on areas like Austin he private citizen Ford seems to have done the right thing. Considering how many losses there have been by other people and the banks it is hard to see what he did that could be considered illegal. Let's hope for the best for him and the district.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 11:19 AM

There seems to be some sort of racial overtone to your comment. What's the story? Are you just angry at Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for their social activism? The undentified neighborhood you say should be bulldoozed has likely been neglected for decades by politicians and decision makers. Investing in our communities can produce positive results. Unfortunately, the poor have very few people of influence advocating on their behalf.

Earl Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 10:34 AM

Still waiting for Jessie and Al to appear and Al to appear. I bet they are still busy at some candlelight vigil holding hands and promising to clean up some neighborhood that should just be bulldozed.

bob from oak park  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 6:47 AM

Did Ford pay back all his obligations? If not, how much is still owed to Urban Partnership Bank? (I have not seen this reported by the WJ). While payback does not excuse, it would/will eliminate taxpayer loss.

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