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Businessman admits rewarding then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval, with help from Jeff Tobolski

Vahooman “Shadow” Mirkhaef’s name appeared in federal search warrant documents in 2019, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that he finally faced charges for paying off Sandoval.

A sign for the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.
Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Sun-Times file

A suburban businessman admitted Wednesday he rewarded then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval with thousands of dollars for Sandoval’s help speeding up the sale of property in McCook in a scheme that also involved former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski.

Vahooman “Shadow” Mirkhaef, who ran Cub Terminal in McCook, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy during a hearing held by video before U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. He also agreed in his 18-page plea deal to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

The judge did not set a sentencing date for Mirkhaef.

Mirkhaef’s plea deal refers to a “Public Official A.” A source identified that person as Tobolski, who also served as mayor of McCook. A lawyer for Tobolski declined to comment Wednesday. Tobolski pleaded guilty to an extortion conspiracy last year and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. His sentencing is also on hold.

Sandoval, who died in December 2020, pleaded guilty in January 2020 to corruption charges and admitted he’d “engaged in corrupt activities with other public officials” and took more than $250,000 “in bribes as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants.”

Mirkhaef’s name appeared in federal search warrant documents in 2019, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that he finally faced charges for paying off Sandoval.

His plea agreement states that he sought help from Tobolski and another unnamed individual in 2015 obtaining approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation for the purchase of land in McCook. Tobolski and the other individual told him to seek out Sandoval, who is identified in the plea agreement as “State Senator A.”

Mirkhaef secured Sandoval’s support with the help of Tobolski and the other individual, according to the plea deal. On June 20, 2018, Mirkhaef forwarded to Sandoval an email thread between Mirkhaef and IDOT officials, so Sandoval could use the information it contained to influence the sale of the property, the document said.

Sandoval also met with IDOT officials about the sale on June 28, 2018, it said.

IDOT arranged for the sale of the property at public auction, and Mirkhaef bought the property from the state in October 2018, according to Mirkhaef’s plea agreement.

But Mirkhaef was also encouraged to pay Sandoval for his help, and Mirkhaef agreed to do so, the plea agreement said. Sandoval went to Mirkhaef’s office in December 2018 to confirm that he would be paid, according to the document. And then, on Jan. 21, 2019, Mirkhaef met with Sandoval at a restaurant in McCook and arranged for Sandoval to be paid more than $15,000 in cash, according to the plea agreement.

Mirkhaef also admitted Wednesday that, between 2015 and 2018, he gave cash and other benefits to Tobolski in return for Tobolski helping and not interfering with Mirkhaef’s business.