State Rep. LaShawn Ford appeared in federal court May 23 where Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer set a trial date for April 22, 2014 on alleged bank fraud charges leveled against the West Side Democrat.
The judge also ruled on some of the several motions Ford’s defense has brought. Pallmeyer, however, delayed ruling on the most notable defense motion which sought the dismissal of seven of the 17 counts brought by the federal government against Ford, whose 8th District includes Austin and neighboring Oak Park.
Tom Durkin, Ford’s attorney, claimed those seven charges mirror the same allegations made in the first count of the indictment and therefore constitute a version of double jeopardy. In its response the federal prosecutors said the seven charges should stand independently. The judge asked for additional clarity on the issue and gave both sides time to address certain questions as she considers the defense motion to dismiss those charges.
Ford pled not guilty in December 2012 to the multiple-count indictment. The government alleges he made false statements to obtain a $500,000 increase, as well as a two-year extension, on a line of credit from the now-defunct ShoreBank in 2006.
Durkin said his client is looking for his day in court. Ford’s next status hearing is August 14.
“We would be prepared to try the case earlier, but the government was of the opinion that they didn’t want to do it until after February, which was OK with me,” Durkin said.
The prosecution contends that Ford submitted false tax returns that inflated his personal and business income to get the increased line of credit. Additionally, the indictment alleges Ford obtained multiple cash advances by making false statements about his intended use of the funds.
Ford was in the real estate and home renovation business on the West Side. The indictment also alleges that Ford diverted funds toward personal use: for car loans, credit cards, gambling debt, other mortgages owed to ShoreBank and for his 2006 campaign for state rep.
But Durkin contended that his client did not initiate the credit line extension. Instead, ShoreBank officials increased the line of credit based on Ford’s good relationship with the institution, Durkin said.
“This is all coming from the bank,” he said, noting that any moneys from the loan were put in Ford’s general account and he did not operate his business any differently after receiving the funds.
In an April 29 deposition quoted by Ford in his motions, ShoreBank officials acknowledged that Ford’s “reputation, good standing and long-term relationship with ShoreBank were the operative factors in the loan renewal process.”
Additionally, the former head of the bank’s loan department noted that loan guidelines and paperwork for well-known customers like Ford “may be more relaxed and not complete as thoroughly” for new customers.
Judge Pallmeyer last Thursday granted several defense motions, including a ruling for regarding how long the government has to disclose evidence. Pallmeyer is still considering legal issues regarding motions to dismiss certain charges against Ford. She will issue a written ruling after both sides have time to address certain questions in considering defense motions to dismiss.