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Federal bank fraud charges leveled against state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th) have not silenced a growing chorus of support for the West Side Democrat.
Ford was charged last week with bank fraud connected to an alleged, fraudulently-obtained $500,000 increase, as well as a two-year extension, on a line of credit from the since failed ShoreBank. The alleged crime supposedly took place in 2006 while Ford, 40, was running for state rep. ShoreBank was shut down by federal regulators in 2010 and now operates under Urban Partnership Bank.
Many of Ford's supporters have taken to social media to champion the good work they say he's done on behalf of constituents and community organizations. An event page on Facebook urges supporters to attend Ford's 9 a.m., Dec. 6 arraignment at the McKinley courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn, in downtown Chicago.
On Ford's Facebook page, community organizer Valerie Leonard called him a "champion of democracy in education." She also noted Ford's pushed for legislation to create a task force to study better governance of Chicago public schools.
"You have been a teacher, father, a neighbor and friend to many," Leonard wrote.
Dr. Andre Hines, CEO of Circle Family Healthcare Network in Austin, knows personally the depths Ford has gone to help the medical center. She said Ford has routinely advocated for the medical center when the state's Department of Health and Human Services has been slow in releasing funds to the center.
"I don't know how we can do the work we do without him," she said, "...but we have not been able to get our dollars released until he goes to bat for us and this is every few months.
"We are one of the smallest health centers," Hines added, speaking to Austin Weekly News last week. "The larger ones have advocates down in Springfield that get paid to work on their behalf to release their dollars. I don't have anybody. The only thing I have is LaShawn Ford."
Ford, she adds, also went to bat for her agency when state budget cuts threatened to shutter the medical center's violence prevention initiative this year. Hines expressed dismay that Ford is the only one that the "powers that be" has targeted as a result of the bank's failure.
"He is truly a servant, and I just feel like this is a witch hunt," she said. "I never seen anything but integrity in LaShawn Ford, and I never in my life stood up for anybody who's accused of anything. It is just not my nature, but... I support him, because I know in the end, all of this will be resolved."
The indictment, which came down on Nov. 29, also charges that Ford obtained multiple advances by allegedly making false statements about his intent for the bank funds. Ford, however, has vehemently denied the charges, which do not involve his position as a state legislator. He says he will not resign and will fight the charges.