Former Ald. Vrdolyak’s son allegedly shook down hard up law client
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 25, 2013 7:16PM
Debbie Crim | Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 27, 2013 6:34AM
It’s been more than a decade since convicted fraudster and former Chicago Ald. “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak was censured for making improper loans to clients of his personal injury law firm.
Now his lawyer son, Peter Vrdolyak, is fighting a nastier but eerily similar allegation: that he tried to shake down a hard-up client who was seriously hurt in a Metra rail accident.
Grandmother Debbie Crim, 54, alleges in a $1 million lawsuit that Peter Vrdolyak referred her to a pal who charged predatory interest rates of up to 60 percent on loans totalling $108,500, then “put the squeeze on” her when she balked at the pal’s $413,000 bill.
“I want to make sure that Mr. Vrdolyak never does this to anyone else,” a visibly agitated Crim testified in federal court Tuesday at the start of a jury trial that’s likely to throw an unflattering light on the lenders who target Chicago’s poorest litigants.
Though Peter Vrdolyak and the Vrdolyak Law Group say they did nothing wrong when they passed on the number of Client Funding Solutions — a firm owned by Vrdolyak’s pal Miles Lustig — even Vrdolyak’s lawyer Daniel Meenan conceded during his opening statement that the interest Lustig charged was “ridiculous and unfair.”
Despite that, Crim’s attorney, Victor Henderson, says the Vrdolyak family law firm referred 170 clients to Lustig’s firm over the years.
Crim had hired the Vrdolyak family law firm to represent her after she injured her spine, neck, shoulders and arms in 2001 when a Metra train she was riding on hit a car at a South Side railroad crossing.
Unable to work and beset by bills for surgeries, medicine and household expenses as her lawsuit against the motorist who caused the accident dragged on, she asked Peter Vrdolyak for a personal loan in 2005, both sides agree.
Peter Vrdolyak instead referred her to Lustig when it became clear she had no other access to credit, Meenan said, describing Lustig’s high rates as “legal” and “competitive” in the market serving litigants who are waiting for a lawsuit to pay out and denying that Vrdolyak benefitted in any way from the referral.
But Henderson said Vrdolyak “hid” his long-standing ties to Lustig from Crim, adding that Lustig’s $413,000 bill didn’t add up, even allowing for the high interest.
When Crim’s lawsuit against the motorist was settled for $2.4 million, Vrdolyak withheld the money from Crim, telling her she had to pay Lustig’s inflated fees first, Henderson alleged.
The trial is due to resume Wednesday.