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Things may get even worse for ‘Fast Eddie’ Vrdolyak, lawyers hint

Former Alderman Edward Vrdolyak leaves the Dirksen Federal Building last year. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Even more legal trouble could be on the horizon for the former Chicago alderman known as “Fast Eddie.”

Five months after a grand jury indicted Edward R. Vrdolyak, lawyers for the onetime powerhouse politician told a judge Wednesday he could be looking at more serious criminal charges in the coming months.

It’s the difference between “a heart and a heart attack,” defense lawyer Terry Gillespie told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

But that’s about as clear as anything got during a cryptic status hearing in Vrdolyak’s case. St. Eve set Vrdolyak’s trial to start March 5, 2018, despite complaints from defense lawyer Michael Monico that last November’s indictment is “not going to be the case we go to trial on.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu told the judge no charging decision has been made.

Either way, the prosecutor said he expects Vrdolyak’s trial to last two weeks. It could be delayed if new charges are filed.

The lawyers also made reference in court to a mysterious “filing” related to the case that does not appear to have been made public.

Vrdolyak’s lawyers wouldn’t comment as they left the courtroom. An attorney for Vrdolyak’s co-defendant, Daniel Soso, said he also wasn’t aware of any such “filing.”

A grand jury hit Vrdolyak, 79, last November with a 19-page federal indictment that outlined his role in a scheme to pocket millions of dollars from Illinois’ $9.3 billion settlement with tobacco companies nearly two decades ago. The indictment alleges Vrdolyak was promised $65 million from that settlement even though he “did no work on the Tobacco Lawsuit.”

It’s not clear how much money Vrdolyak made from the settlement, but federal prosecutors told a judge in 2010 that Vrdolyak “has a guaranteed income stream of $260,000 per year . . . until 2023 from tobacco-related litigation.”

The indictment charged Vrdolyak with impeding the IRS and tax evasion. He faces a maximum of eight years in prison for allegedly trying to help Soso dodge federal income taxes.