Updated 08/04/14 – 2:27 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — In a rare and surprising move, federal prosecutors have dropped 17 felony bank fraud charges against state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), and allowed him to plead guilty instead to a single misdemeanor tax charge.
In November 2012, Ford was indicted on 17 felony counts of bank fraud and submitting false information to the now-defunct ShoreBank. The feds alleged he got a $500,000 extension on a line of credit for his real estate business in 2006, then used the money to pay off personal and campaign expenses – including car loans, credit card bills, mortgage payments, and gambling.
However, on Monday, Ford, 42, pleaded guilty to only a single misdemeanor count of filing a false income tax return for 2007, and prosecutors dropped all other charges.
The misdemeanor count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $100,000 fine, although the plea anticipates a recommended sentence of zero to six months in jail, and as a first time offender, probation is more likely. Added together, the 17 felony counts would have carried a penalty of up to 510 years in prison and a fine of up to $17 million. A felony conviction also would have meant Ford would have lost his seat in the Illinois House’s 8th District.