Former Chicago alderman pleads guilty

CHICAGO Vrdolyak arranged a kickback for attorney Stuart Levine, the star witness in the trial of Tony Rezko. His guilty plea came as his trial on fraud charges was about to begin. His attorney says Vrdolyak wanted to avoid a long and bitter trial.

A key piece of evidence is believed to be an audio recording of Vrdolyak. Those close to Vrdolyak says he would have likely beat this accusation if there wasn't such evidence. But, Monday in open court, the persuasive politician and businessman admitted his guilt.

Vrdolyak arrived at Dirksen Federal Building Monday morning for what would have been the start of his trial. Instead, the wheeler and dealer nicknamed "Fast Eddie" averted a trial with a plea deal with the government and admitted to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

"We avoid a long and bitter trial as a result of this," said Michael Monico, Vrdolyak's attorney.

Vrdolyak was accused of taking a kickback for the sale of 1001 N. Dearborn. The property was owned by Chicago Medical School, now known as Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Stuart Levine, a board member of the school, would steer the school toward a certain buyer and the buyer would pay a finders fee. Levine and Vrdolyak were to spilt the $1.5 million fee.

"In the transaction, Vrdolyak was taking the money, hiding from the board that one of the members of the board of trustee was getting under the table cash in his pocket to select a bidder," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Northern District of Illinois.

Vrdolyak represented the 10th Ward during the "Council Wars." He famously led the opposition against the city's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington.

In subsequent years, Vrdolyak befriended the powerful and was known for making things happen.

Alderman Bernie Stone was with Vrdolyak in the Council Wars. Alderman Stone says he is sad to hear that hard times are ahead for an old friend and was surprised to hear Vrdolyak's guilty plea.

"He also said, no matter when you're talking, always talk as if you were talking on tape. And I can't believe it. He didn't follow his own advice," said Ald. Bernard Stone, 50th Ward.

A spokesman for what was Chicago Medical School says: "Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is gratified that through today's guilty plea those who have victimized the University will be held accountable."

The US attorney says they will ask for 31-44 months in prison. It will be up to the judge.

Vrdolyak will be sentenced on January 9.

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