West Side politician's attorney says state representative unfairly targeted by feds

April 30, 2013

WBEZ/Tony Arnold
Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford outside of his Chicago district offices on the night his indictment was made public.

Attorneys have come out with their defense for an indicted Illinois state representative charged with bank fraud.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford was indicted on 17 counts of bank fraud and lying to a now-failed bank. He’s accused of getting a $500,000 increase and extending his line of credit with the bank to rehab Chicago properties. Instead, he used the money to pay car loans, a casino and expenses for his 2006 campaign.

The charges stem from Ford’s dealings with ShoreBank in 2006, before Ford was elected to represent Chicago’s West Side in Springfield.

Ford’s attorney, Tom Durkin, said in a new court filing that Ford was indicted because he was elected.

“He is the only person, to my knowledge, to ever get charged with anything out of the whole ShoreBank collapse,” Durkin said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Which I find odd.”

ShoreBank provided loans to low income parts of Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland. It shuttered after the housing collapse.

Durkin wrote in his court filing that Ford was a long-time customer of ShoreBank. The former head of the bank’s loan committee once said of Ford, “when an individual [like LaShawn Ford] is a well known customer of the bank, the paperwork may be more relaxed and not completed as thoroughly as by newer customers.”

Durkin also requested that prosecutors identify the expenses that were allegedly unrelated to the rehabilitation of Ford’s properties before trial.

Durkin said prosecutors wrongly charged Ford with 17 counts. He said some of those counts are duplicative, and could be in violation of double jeopardy standards.

Ford’s indictment became public after he won re-election in November. He has since been named chairman of a new committee in the Illinois House called the Restorative Justice Committee.

“Even before the situation that has occurred with me, you will see that my record shows that I’ve always fought for a fairness in justice,” Ford said in February of the appointment.

Ford’s indictment came after federal prosecutors charged another Illinois state representative from Chicago’s West Side, Derrick Smith, with taking a bribe. House members took the rare move to kick Smith out of office in August, but Smith regained his seat by winning election in November. House members have said they haven’t tried to kick Ford out of office since the charges against him are not related to his time in public office.

A trial date for Ford has not yet been set.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.