Ex-Chicago alderman sentenced to prison for tax evasion

Chicago News

CHICAGO — A former Chicago alderman nicknamed “Fast Eddie” for his backroom dealing was sentenced Friday by a federal judge to 18 months in prison for tax evasion.

Edward R. Vrdolyak pleaded guilty two years ago to seeking to help another lawyer to evade paying about $800,000 in income taxes. The scheme was part of a plan to siphon off millions of dollars in legal fees stemming from a $9 billion tobacco settlement with the state of Illinois even though he did no legal work on the case.

After sentencing Vrdolyak, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow said he will hold a hearing in three months to discuss when the 82-year-old Vrydolyak will report to prison.

“I am not going to send Mr. Vrdolyak to prison during COVID,” the judge said.

It has been 21 months since Vrdolyak’s guilty plea and four years since his indictment, which outlined his role in a bid to pocket millions from Illinois’ two-decade-old settlement with tobacco companies.

In a court filing last month, prosecutors said Vrdolyak collected more than $12 million from that settlement despite doing no work on the case. Prosecutors had previously said Vrdolyak and co-defendant Daniel Soso “received in excess of $10 million in fees.” Soso was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison for dodging taxes.

The $9.3 billion Illinois received in the tobacco settlement included $188.5 million in payments to outside law firms that helped with the litigation.

Prosecutors alleged Soso and Vrdolyak struck a secret deal with Washington state attorney Steve Berman to collect some of that money, without doing any work. But in court filings last month, Vrdolyak’s attorneys said he was “an integral part” of the reason Berman’s firm wound up working with the Illinois attorney general on the 1990s case.

While federal prosecutors asked Dow to send Vrdolyak to prison for more than two years, Vrdolyak’s defense attorneys asked for probation or home confinement. They said he had a brain tumor and pointed to the pandemic.

Vrdolyak apologized during the virtual sentencing hearing.

“What happened was my own fault, and I take full responsibility,” he said.

Vrdolyak did a 10-month stint in federal prison in 2011 in a $1.5 million real estate kickback scheme. In the mid-1980s, he led an aldermanic bloc staunchly opposed to Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, and later focused on his law practice.

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