An Illinois lawmaker pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 17 counts of bank fraud and other related charges.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford is accused of submitting bogus tax returns to ShoreBank to increase a line of credit to $1.5 million.
Prosecutors say he exaggerated his personal and business income to get the approval. They say he claimed he would use the money to rehab properties for his real estate business, but instead paid off loans and debts.
He received a strong show of solidarity at the Dirksen Federal Building. About 100 supporters were on hand to cheer him on.
Ford’s lawyer questioned why the government is charging him now, since the alleged fraud took place between 2005 and 2008.
“Why all of a sudden at this stage of the game, five to six years later, out of a bank that had all that trouble, and I’m not aware of any other prosecutions coming out of that bank, why the only person they’re prosecuting is an African-American, popular legislator. I don’t understand it,” said Thomas Anthony Durkin.
Ford has represented Chicago’s west side and the western suburbs since 2006.