White-Collar Crime

Chicago Attorney and Ex-Alderman Ed Vrdolyak Pleads in Kickback Case

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A well-known Chicago attorney who is a former longtime city alderman has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud. The case, which involves a claimed kickback paid to put a real estate deal on a fast track, was to have gone to trial this week.

Edward Vrdolyak said he was guilty of agreeing to share a $1.5 million kickback from a real-estate deal with Stuart Levine, a businessman who was on the board of the medical school selling the property and used his influence to favor Mr. Vrdolyak’s buyer,” reports the New York Times.

Vrdolyak ducked reporters by exiting through an underground tunnel in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago after his plea yesterday, but U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois was more loquacious, recounts the Chicago Tribune.

“The notion in Chicago that there are certain people who cannot or will not be held accountable took a serious hit today,” Fitzgerald said after the hearing.

Vrdolyak’s tunnel exit, however, was an unusual move rarely permitted to convicted defendants, the newspaper notes. It was reportedly OK’d by U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur, who said court security urged him to allow use of the tunnel.

Vrdolyak’s lawyer, Michael Monico, said his client’s plea included no promise of cooperation with authorities, according to the Tribune.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a sentence of about approximately three years when Vrdolyak is sentenced in January. His age is variously reported as either 70 or 71 in articles about his plea.

By pleading, Vrdolyak avoided additional potential prosecution in a case linked to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a political fundraiser for the Democratic party, the Tribune writes. During a trial of Rezko earlier this year, “political insider Stuart Levine testified that Vrdolyak was to have passed a $2 million bribe from Hollywood producer Thomas Rosenberg as part of an extortion plot over state investment business, but the scheme fell through when Rosenberg threatened to go to authorities.”

Additional coverage:

National Law Journal (reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.): “High-profile Attorney Admits Fraud”

Chicago Sun-Times: “City Hall reacts to Vrdolyak guilty verdict”

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