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Controversial ex-Chicago alderman pleads guilty
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    CHICAGO — A former Chicago politician who led white aldermen in a spectacular feud with the city’s first black mayor 25 years ago pleaded guilty Monday for his role in a real estate kickback scheme just as his trial was about to begin.
    Edward R. Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud ‘‘to avoid a lengthy and bitter trial,’’ said his attorney, Michael Monico.
    The 71-year-old former alderman and one-time Cook County Democratic chairman was accused of arranging a kickback for attorney Stuart Levine in the sale of a piece of property for $15 million.
    Prosecutors claimed that Levine made certain that a development company would be the buyer of the property. It says Vrdolyak was to get a $1.5 million fee from the buyer and share it later with Levine.
    The charges stem from the same investigation that led to the fraud conviction of political fundraiser Tony Rezko, who helped to bankroll the campaigns of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate run.
    Levine, who was expected to be the government’s star witness at Vrdolyak’s trial, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges involving Rezko and a plan to use political clout to squeeze various businesses for $7 million in kickbacks.
    Levine testified at the Rezko trial that he had been involved in several shady deals with Vrdolyak.
    Vrdolyak — known as ‘‘Fast Eddie’’ — faces a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Jan. 9.
    He led 29 rebellious white aldermen, remnants of the once mighty Chicago Machine, in a clash with Mayor Harold Washington, the favorite of black voters and of anti-Machine independents.
    Washington eventually was able to command a majority on the City Council, and Vrdolyak’s rebellion fizzled. Vrdolyak ran for mayor twice but lost both times.

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