CHICAGO (CN) - Former Alderman Eddie Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to mail fraud Monday in a kickback scheme involving the sale of a medical school building on Chicago's Gold Coast. "The notion in Chicago that there are people who cannot and will not be held accountable took a serious hit today," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
In his plea agreement, Vrdolyak said he was commissioned by Chicago businessman Stuart Levine to find a buyer for the property, owned by the Chicago Medical School. The buyer was to pay a kickback in return for Levine's using his position as a CMS board member to steer the property to the buyer.
Chicago's Gold Coast, on the Near North Side, is a swank section dominated by expensive high-rise condos overlooking Lake Michigan.
Prosecutors seek a 41-month prison sentence for Vrdolyak. The maximum sentence is 5 years.
Levine pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2006 and is cooperating with federal authorities. He was a major witness in the trial of political fund-raiser Antoin Rezko, who was convicted in June of corruption charges stemming from the same pay-to-play scheme in which William Cellini is implicated.
As part of Vrdolyak's plea agreement, prosecutors will not seek criminal charges in his alleged connection to United States v. William Cellini, filed here last week. Cellini is accused of conspiring to coerce a Hollywood producer and his real estate firm into contributing money to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign.
"The Vrdolyak family is a very, very close-knit family. They have been discussing these issues for a long time," Vrdolyak's attorney Michael Monico said. "On Saturday the government suggested a reduced charge. We avoid a lengthy and bitter trial as a result of this."
Vrdolyak, a former alderman, was a central figure in the Chicago "Council Wars" of the 1980s, when he led a group of 29 aldermen in opposition to Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor.
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