2 Chicago Bears praised fraud defendant to judge

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Chicago Bears star Brian Urlacher and former Bear Terry “Tank” Johnson wrote letters to a federal judge last year that praised a disgraced Chicago pol facing sentencing in a $1.5 million real estate kickback scheme.

Chicago Bears star Brian Urlacher and former Bear Terry "Tank" Johnson wrote letters to a federal judge last year that praised a disgraced Chicago pol facing sentencing in a $1.5 million real estate kickback scheme. The letters, both dated December 2008, were part of a newly released court file in the case of former Alderman Edward Vrdolyak, known in Chicago political circles as "Fast Eddie." In his Dec. 19 letter, Urlacher said he spent time with Vrdolyak on family vacations and during the offseason. The Pro Bowl linebacker, who is not playing this season because of a wrist injury, said Vrdolyak had been generous with advice. "During some of the most stressful times of my life, some publicized, some not, the advice he has given me has been of infinite value," Urlacher wrote in the two-page letter. "It is clear to anyone lucky enough to know him that all his actions are motivated by good intentions." In his letter, Johnson told the judge "my relationship with Mr. Vrdolyak had a direct result in my turning my life around." The Bears released Johnson in 2007 after several run-ins with the law. Now with the Cincinnati Bengals, the defensive tackle once spent two months in jail because of weapons charges. The letters were written a month after Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud for arranging to sell a piece of real estate owned by the Finch University of Health Sciences-Chicago Medical School to a developer. He and longtime friend Stuart Levine — a member of the school’s board — schemed to share the $1.5 million payoff, prosecutors said. Vrdolyak was given five years’ probation and fined $50,000. Levine later became the government’s star witness in its case against Tony Rezko, one of the top fundraisers for impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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