A Richland County Grand Jury indicted former state Sen. Robert Ford, a Charleston Democrat, Friday on charges of illegally using campaign money for his personal expenses.
Ford faces eight charges of public corruption, including a felony charge.
Ford resigned last year after 20 years in the Senate. At the time, the Senate Ethics Committee was hearing ethics allegations against Ford.
Ford is charged with misconduct in office, forgery involving less than $10,000, and six counts of violating the state Ethics Act, including allegations that he used campaign money for personal expenses, deposited campaign contributions into his personal bank account and falsely reported his campaign finances.
If he is convicted of the felony charge, Ford could face up to five years in prison and a fine. Misconduct in office is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The ethics violations also are misdemeanors, each punishable by a year in prison and a fine of $5,000 or more.
Ford resigned amid a hearing that ended with the Senate Ethics Committee accusing the Charleston Democrat of spending campaign money on his personal expenses, including buying items at a sex shop and making a car payment.
This year, the Ethics Committee fined Ford $30,000 for the violations and ordered him to repay another $15,000.
Ford’s attorney, William Runyon of Charleston, said the former senator had not had a chance to read the charges because he was traveling. But Runyon said they were “vague and general in nature.”
“The only plea that is anticipated at this time is ‘not guilty,’ ” the attorney added. “This was not unanticipated. We’re looking forward to getting the process started, appearing in court in a week or two.”
The grand jury said Ford:
• Altered copies of checks drawn from his campaign account and submitted those altered copies to the S.C. Senate Ethics Committee investigators, a felony offense;
• Spent thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses and bills, and did not report the true nature of the expenses;
• Deposited more than $19,000 in campaign contributions for his state Senate campaign into a personal bank account;
• Failed to disclose “tens of thousands” in contributions to and expenses from his Senate campaign, and thousands of dollars in contributions to and expenses from his 2010 campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor;
• Deposited into personal bank accounts thousands of dollars contributed to his campaign for governor.
Ford is not the only lawmaker to leave the State House recently under a cloud of corruption allegations.
This fall, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, was indicted on public corruption charges, pleaded guilty and resigned.