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Illinois lawmaker pleads guilty to tax charge; faces up to a year in prison

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois state Representative La Shawn K. Ford, who was charged two years ago with bank fraud, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to a substantially less serious misdemeanor charge of filing a false 2007 tax return.

Ford, 42, had been accused in late 2012 of far more serious charges that he had submitted false income information in applying for a $500,000 credit line. He had faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Ford, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to misstating the cost of a Chicago property he sold, lowering his tax liability by $3,782.

Ford, who is up for re-election this year, faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. He will be sentenced Nov. 7, after the Nov. 4 election.

The prosecutor's office refused to comment on why the charge was reduced.

The Illinois Constitution disqualifies anyone convicted of felony, bribery, perjury or other "infamous crime" from holding elected office, but political experts said this is unlikely to apply in Ford's case.

His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, said Ford would be able to remain in office, according to the Chicago Tribune. Durkin was not immediately available for comment.

Ford should win re-election in his heavily Democratic Chicago district if allowed to remain on the ballot, said Dick Simpson, a political science professor with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Illinois and Chicago have a long history of political corruption, with numerous local, county and state officials facing federal charges in recent years.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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