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Ford vehemently defends self against federal charges

Friday, Nov 30, 2012

* Whatever you may think of the charges, these town hall meetings are a pretty gutsy move by indicted state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago). From an e-mail sent to his constituents yesterday afternoon…

* ABC7

Indicted State Representative LaShawn Ford met with constituents to defend himself in his West Side office Thursday night and offered his side of the story.

He said he has yet to read the federal indictment, but he fully intends to fight it.

The feds say he defrauded Shore Bank by misusing more than half a million dollars in loans. Ford says he did nothing wrong.

“What we have is a failed bank and there were problems with that bank and the federal justice department, they’re doing their job. They want to make sure that everything was done right,” he said.

The allegations date back to 2006, before Ford was elected to the state house. And they concern his real estate business, not his work as a state representative, which supporters say has been stellar.

“Me personally, I don’t believe he did anything wrong,” said Roy Flowers.

“LaShawn has been a pillar of the community for years, from his real estate company all the way to as a state rep,” said Marlon Ryals.

* Ford also talked to several reporters yesterday, and attempted to refute the charges one by one

He vehemently denied the charges and insisted he had committed no bank fraud in the years before he was elected to office and while he was actively buying and rehabbing homes on the West Side.

“An indictment is an accusation and a theory of what those people believed happened as far as the life I live,” Ford said, adding that he plans to continue to serve as state representative while he fights the charges. […]

Speaking by phone to Austin Weekly News shortly after the news of the indictment broke, Ford responded nearly point-by-point to the lengthy indictment.

As for the charge that he needed the money to support a lavish lifestyle, Ford insisted that he has been successful in real estate through legitimate means and didn’t need to commit any crimes.

“This is a case of the feds not knowing how real estate is done in the community,” Ford said. “I respect their job, but I also have a job to do and that’s to defend myself.”

* And

The lawmaker said his business failed when the real estate market collapsed, falling particularly hard on the city’s underdeveloped West Side.

“My business failed. ShoreBank failed. The problem is the owners of the bank, they’re gone. And little ol’ me is right here, being indicted.”

Ford also dismissed the federal allegations about using money for gambling payments, saying he was making enough money to “do what I wanted to do.”

“I gamble when I can,” he said. “If I can afford to gamble, I gamble.” Asked if he had a gambling problem, Ford said “no” and said he had no gambling debts. Ford said he did not divert any of the bank money to gamble.

“The jury will decide on my guilt or innocence,” he said. “I know me. I know I didn’t lie to the bank.”

* More

In August, the legislative chamber voted to oust state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe from an undercover FBI informant who was acting on behalf of a purported daycare center operator seeking Smith’s assistance in obtaining a $50,000 state grant. Smith went on to win election in November despite being under federal indictment and will be seated in the House in January.

Ford voted present on the resolution to expel Smith, one of only three lawmakers to do so. Six voted no.

“It’s up to the speaker of the House and the members,” Ford said, when asked whether he thinks he too could face possible expulsion.

“I want to serve in the House of Representatives. I want a place where people understand this is America and in America, we believe in justice. We say the Pledge of Allegiance every day when we convene [in Springfield].

“An indictment is no more than an accusation, no more than a hypothesis, their theory of what they believe happened back in 2006 of 2007. This is 2012,” Ford continued. “There’s no damn way.”

As I told subscribers earlier this morning about my own interview with the man, Ford is either the most brazen liar I’ve ever seen or there’s something really lacking in that indictment.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


24 Comments
  1. - nieva - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:07 am:

    Rich have you seen the feds come unprepared in the past? They don’t do this unless they are over certain of being able to convict. On the other hand if I was being indicted I would deny, deny, deny!


  2. - OneMan - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:29 am:

    Got to give him credit for the approach to the situation.

    We will see what the feds have.


  3. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:30 am:

    ===Rich have you seen the feds come unprepared in the past?===

    Yep.


  4. - Valerie F. Leonard - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:45 am:

    Representative La Shawn K Ford, I want you to know that I appreciate the work you do on behalf of your constituents, and those of us who live beyond your borders. You have been a champion of democracy in education, offering to push legislation that will create a task force to study the most efficient governance structure and process for CPS. You offered to bring David Vitale, the Chairman of the Board of CPS, and Penny Pritzker, a member of the Chicago Board of Education to the community to hear our concerns and open the lines of communications between CPS and a community that has long been ignored. You voted “No” on the bill to extend time for CPS to disclose the list of schools to be closed to encourage them to develop a much more comprehensive process and to minimize disruption to our community. You have sponsored and passed legislation that have increased opportunities for African American and women contractors and employees. You have been a champion for those who need a second chance, in spite of a sometimes hostile environment that would choose to capitalize upon the plight of the incarcerated. You have sponsored countless events to foster relationships between the government sector (fed, state and local), small businesses and the financial sector. You have educated the masses on homeownership, affordable housing and foreclosure. You have been a teacher, father, a neighbor and friend to many. I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO, AND ALL YOU WILL DO!


  5. - cassandra - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:57 am:

    If he really did rehab those houses, then perhaps sloppy bookkeeping? But there is still the question of why Ford? Do the feds have a politicians quota. After all, during the bust, thousands of entrepreneurs and developers and millions of homeowners defaulted w/no criminal penalties.

    Anyway, this is going to cost him in attorney’s fees, so, guilty or sloppy, he’ll be paying.


  6. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 9:58 am:

    ==Rich have you seen the feds come unprepared in the past? They don’t do this unless they are over certain of being able to convict.==

    A federal indictment is very, very expensive to defend against. It is not uncommon for someone who is indicted to cut a deal &/or plead guilty simply because they cannot afford the expense of defending themselves. The feds hope that the burden will push someone to plead, at which point they do not need to produce the evidence required to convict.

    So, yes, they will come against a defendant with less than enough evidence if they think that person will plead out.

    (I’m sure someone will be tempted to post that an innocent person would not plead guilty, but that is simply not the case. If you cannot afford to defend yourself, you plead. And by defend yourself, I mean a proper and robust defense.)


  7. - Erik - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 10:09 am:

    Uh, Uh, as the classical rapper Shaggy said (over and over), “It wasn’t me…”

    As most men are aware, this is most well-known and often most effective defense.


  8. - 47th Ward - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 10:54 am:

    I have to admire the way Ford is taking this head-on. I read the indictment and it’s pretty straight forward. He made specific request to the bank and the feds say he then spent the loan proceeds on other projects. Maybe they can prove that, maybe not, especially if Ford co-mingled funds, which will make it difficult to sort out where the money acutally went. That’s what the trial will show.

    On the other hand, I think we all know of cases during the real estate boom where incomes were possibly inflated and mortgage lenders didn’t bother to verify certain facts. As anybody trying to get a real estate loan now knows, the banks are triple checking each and every detail and denying lots of loan applications as a result.

    So how much of this is the bank’s fault is a good question that jurors will have to decide. If any of those jurors dealt with mortgage lenders before or since the real estate bubble burst, they might be sympathetic to Ford.

    And more importantly, if this is the standard for federal prosecution, they could indict a lot more people for this stuff if they choose to. The feds have been all over the west side. They’ve clearly examined Ford’s life in great detail to uncover this. If any other west side pols have any sloppy financial dealings, they’d be well advised to get them sorted out asap. Seems like everybody is under the microscope these days.

    Bottom line: if Ford was just a real estate developer and not a state rep, I don’t think he’d get indicted. Seems like a case of selective prosecution and Ford being held to a higher standard. Public servants should be held to high standards, but justice should be blind.


  9. - Regular Reader - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 11:00 am:

    I’ve spoke with Ford about this indictment.

    I completely agree with Rich. Either Ford is a brazen liar or there’s something very lacking here.


  10. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:00 pm:

    Finally a criminal prosecution for the rascals that crashed the world economy in 2008.

    I would have thought it would have been someone from Goldman, or Lehman, or Countryside, or Wachovia, or many other fine institutions.

    Who knew that it was Rep. Ford all along?

    So unlike the long, long list of those who have settled with the Justice on allegations of fraud, he doesn’t get a shot at paying a fine while admitting no wrongdoing?

    Why’s that?


  11. - Esteban - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:00 pm:

    If the Democrats in the House don’t move to expel Ford they will look like total hypocrites.


  12. - Lobo Y Olla - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:13 pm:

    @ 47th Ward.
    “if Ford was just a real estate developer and not a state rep, I don’t think he’d get indicted. Seems like a case of selective prosecution and Ford being held to a higher standard. Public servants should be held to high standards, but justice should be blind.”

    How on Earth can you say that? There are literally dozens of federal prosecutions of this type conducted each year. You haven’t heard of them because the general population does not care about the day to day prosecutions of “no-name” defendants. Selective prosecution? Sounds like Alderman Beavers got to you……


  13. - Todd - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:16 pm:

    I have no love for the feds having seen them take a good man and run him through the ringer for 4 years and threaten to destroy him with an indictment.

    I don’t trust the feds on this one, this isn’t Rod and wiretaps, something smells a bit fishy on this.


  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:20 pm:

    ===You haven’t heard of them because the general population does not care about the day to day prosecutions of “no-name” defendants.===

    I get all the US Attorney’s press releases and I read all of them and I’m having trouble remembering anything like this case for the past few years.


  15. - 47th Ward - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:22 pm:

    ===There are literally dozens of federal prosecutions of this type conducted each year.===

    Maybe you’re right. Is there a source where I can find out the number of federal prosecutions for bank fraud by the Northern District of Illinois?


  16. - low level - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 12:44 pm:

    No conviction will occur. Feds’ indictment is weak- and I do hope that MJM does not decide to go through with another expel resolution. If the Trib doesn’t like it, too bad.


  17. - wordslinger - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 1:11 pm:

    A little background and perspective, in the attached links.

    Bottom lines: The feds rarely pursue this kind of case with individuals. Furthermore, the banks that have been accused of “brazen mortgage fraud” get off with civil penalties, a cost of doing business.

    The federales have been trolling the West Side for a while now. They choose who to target — or not — by some subjective criteria we mere citizens are not privy to.

    http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/federal-prosecutors-sue-bank-of-america-over-mortgage-program/

    http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/267/


  18. - Dan Johnson - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 2:18 pm:

    Innocent until proven guilty. Representative Ford should be treated that way by all of us. Absolutely innocent of all charges.


  19. - Bill - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 2:32 pm:

    Ford is an honest guy who works hard and does what he thinks is right. This is more bogus tripe from the AUSA. They are the ones who should be indicted.


  20. - Lobo Y Olla - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 2:36 pm:

    “I get all the US Attorney’s press releases and I read all of them and I’m having trouble remembering anything like this case for the past few years.”

    Do AUSA’s put out press releases on “no-name” defendants?


  21. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 2:56 pm:

    A simple google search reveals numerous convictions locally and nationally for bank fraud and mortgage fraud in 2012.

    There are more than 20 press releases in 2012 from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois’ office concerning “bank fraud” alone.

    Anyone not on their distribution list can easily read the press releases at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/iln/pr/chicago/2012/index.html

    Most likely do not stand out in memory because they concern people who are not widely recognized. People like P. Reinhard, J. Shain, K. Hurd, R. Lunn, D. Vishnevetsky, M. Fort or J. Olson. Pick a random month (those are from May) and you will find some in 5 minutes.

    More recently, there is the 11-20-12 press release concerning B. Hawkins, who “allegedly submitted false contractor statements to the bank” in order to “obtain slightly more than $1 million in loan proceeds” from a larger loan.

    Those allegations and even the language resembles their press release concerning Mr. Ford, who allegedly “obtained a $500,000 increase… and a two-year extension of the credit line, allegedly by submitting false tax return documents” of which he then “applied for and obtained a total of $373,500 in advances”.

    It bears mentioning that most indictments, plea agreements and convictions on such matters fail to merit press releases or make news unless they involve public figures or very large sums of money. This also neglects to account for all the indictments, pleas and convictions taking place in other districts and other states during 2012.

    And for those feeling nostalgic, some older NDIL convictions for bank fraud may also ring a bell - namely Mel Reynolds and Robert Creamer.


  22. - cover - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 3:16 pm:

    I completely disagree with Estaban @ 12:00, I see no reason for the House to move to expel Rep. Ford. The charges against Rep. Ford are not connected to his service in the General Assembly, whereas the charges against Rep. Smith allege that he took a bribe in exchange for official action as a legislator.


  23. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 3:41 pm:

    In addition to Wordslinger’s sources, the link below does a pretty good job of putting things in perspective regarding the decline in total prosections for this sort of thing:
    http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/uploadedFiles/Reuters_Content/2012/07_-_July/beatingtherap.pdf

    Are there dozens of these prosecutions in Illinois every year? Yes. Hundreds? Not even close.


  24. - Montrose - Friday, Nov 30, 12 @ 4:16 pm:

    This is a bold move by Ford. He better hope it works.

    http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-30-2012/Ford-resolution-asks-fellow-lawmakers-to-%27remain-neutral%27-/


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