'Fast Eddie' Walks
By Marcus Gilmer in News on Feb 27, 2009 4:00PM
It's good to be Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. Facing a potential sentence of between three and four years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme, Fast Eddie walked out of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse yesterday a free man, sentenced to five years probation and fined $50,000, and declaring for reporters, "God is great." In spite of calls from prosecutors to come down heavy on Vrdolyak, U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur called the prosecution's case against him "serious overkill" when announcing the sentence. Vrdolyak pleaded guilty last fall to his role in the kickback scheme, but had refused to cooperate with the feds in any of their additional investigations. Per the Trib:
Vrdolyak was charged in a scheme to collect a $1.5 million fee when Rosalind Franklin University went to sell a Gold Coast property. He was accused of plotting to kick back a part of the fee to a school trustee, convicted influence peddler Stuart Levine.
Levine tapped Vrdolyak to find a buyer, Smithfield Properties Development, whose $15 million offer was then steered to approval by Levine.
Still, the school claimed a substantial loss because of the deal, claiming that based on market conditions at the time of the sale, it could have sold for upwards of $21 million rather than the $15 million deal Levine pressured the board into. Judge Shadur disagreed. According to the Sun-Times:
The plea agreement that Vrdolyak signed had acknowledged that the school sustained a financial loss of $1 million to $2.5 million because of the crime. But in court, defense attorney Michael Monico argued that Vrdolyak did not cause the school a loss at all.
Shadur also determined there was no financial loss, which was a major factor in Vrdolyak avoiding prison time. The judge disregarded the school's belief that it sustained a loss.
The Smithfield lobbyist with whom Vrdolyak made the deal was former Ald. William Singer (43rd) who has not been charged in the case. Vrdolyak defended himself, saying he was only trying to help out Levine who was suicidal. "He needed some money." Levine later wore a wire and recorded Vrdolyak discussing the deal. Vrdolyak also said, "I'd like to add that I hope never to be in a courtroom again in any way, shape or form after this one, even though you run a tight ship." Vrdolyak was also sentenced to 2,500 hours of community service.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was none too pleased with the outcome, though, and seems to be considering an appeal. In a statement, Fitzgerald said, "We strongly but respectively disagree. We believe a sentence of incarceration was appropriate for a defendant who schemed to share a $1.5 million fee with a corrupt insider involving the sale of a non-profit university's valuable real estate asset."