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GOP leader: Too early for House action on Illinois lawmaker

SPRINGFIELD – It's too early for the Legislature to take any action over the indictment of a state representative on federal bank fraud charges, the Illinois House Republican leader said Friday.

Chicago Democrat La Shawn Ford, meanwhile, made a plea for his colleagues to allow him to continue to serve. Ford was indicted Thursday, becoming the second member of the House to face federal charges this year.

"I hope that my constituents will continue to accept me as their state representative," Ford said Friday in a written statement after he filed a House resolution asking fellow legislators to remain neutral in the matter.

Prosecutors allege Ford made false statements to a bank to get a $500,000 increase on a line of credit. They say Ford, who has also worked in real estate, told the bank he would use the money to rehabilitate investment properties but instead used the funds for expenses like car loans, credit cards, casino payments and his 2006 election campaign.

Ford says he's innocent. In his resolution, he said the charges against him have nothing to do with his work as a legislator and do not involve a violation of his oath of office.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross on Friday called the charges "very serious and very troubling," but said lawmakers need more information.

"It's just too early at this point to make a recommendation on House action based on information in the indictment and public statements from the U.S. Attorney's office," Cross said in a statement.

In August, lawmakers voted state Rep. Derrick Smith out of the House — the first such expulsion in more than a century. Smith was arrested in an FBI sting and is accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for supporting what he thought was a grant application for a daycare center. He has pleaded not guilty.

Smith refused calls by Democratic leaders to take his name off the November ballot and won his seat back.

Cross' comments appeared to draw a distinction between the two cases.

"In our current information it does not appear that the charges against Representative Ford involve leveraging his state office for personal gain, which is a fundamental difference from the charges against Representative Derrick Smith," Cross said.

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