Feds name-drop West Side pols during fraud trial

SHARE Feds name-drop West Side pols during fraud trial

28th Ward aldermanic candidate and incumbent Jason Ervin in 2016. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors threw around names of three West Side politicians Tuesday during the fraud trial of a woman accused of blowing state grant funds on shoes, cars and other personal expenses.

Franshuan Myles is fighting mail and wire fraud charges this week in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo. The feds say Myles, the head of Divine Praise Inc., misused $60,000 her organization received from the state in 2011 that should have been spent on summer jobs for participants of the Illinois Youth Recreation Corps program.

The names of Ald. Jason Ervin, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford and former state Sen. Annazette Collins all surfaced on the second day of Myles’ trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Ervin and Collins received money from Myles, and Myles paid for an intern in Lightford’s office in the summer of 2011, according to testimony in the courtroom.

None of the pols has been accused of criminal wrongdoing.

Myles dumped the money she received from the state in August 2011 into an account from which only $38,000 was spent on summer workers, according to FBI forensic accountant Margaret Skiba. Myles used that same account to write a $4,932 check to Ervin on Aug. 26, 2011. A $5,000 cash deposit was made to the account the same day.

Four days later, Myles made a $100 payment from that account to Collins’ campaign, Skiba testified.

Ervin was first tied to the case a year ago when his spokesman confirmed he was the person identified as “Individual A” in a criminal complaint against Myles. The spokesman said at the time the alderman would “cooperate fully with authorities to ensure that taxpayer resources were not improperly diverted for anything else than their specific purpose.” On Tuesday, the spokesman had no comment.

Lightford staffer Marla Skinner also took the stand Tuesday to testify about an intern who worked in Lightford’s district office in 2011. Skinner said she sent time sheets for the intern to Myles with the understanding that Divine Praise would be funding the intern’s paychecks. She said she filled out the intern’s work hours but left the payroll information blank when she sent it to Myles.

“We were not responsible for the payment,” Skinner said.

Lightford did not return a call seeking comment.

The feds say Myles also used her Divine Praise bank account to make purchases at Home Depot, Designer Shoe Warehouse and T.J. Maxx., and they say she made $10,000 in cash withdrawals. Closing arguments in the trial are expected to begin Thursday morning.

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