Bond hearing delayed for couple accused of stealing from fire department
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org December 20, 2013 12:16PM
Michelle and Charles Sopko, of Oak Forest, were arrested Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, on government theft charges. | Phil Kadner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2014 6:33AM
A Cook County Circuit Court judge on Friday delayed until Monday a bond hearing for an Oak Forest couple both charged with stealing more than $350,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District.
Michelle and Charles Sopko remain held on $400,000 cash bonds following their arrest Thursday.
They would each have to post the entire amount in order to be released.
Attorneys for the couple appeared at the Bridgeview courthouse before Judge Peter Felice, who was sitting in for Judge Kerry Kennedy, who issued the arrest warrants for the pair. Felice said he felt more comfortable having Kennedy hear arguments from both sides regarding bond.
Outside the courtroom, family members declined to talk, but were obviously upset that no decision had been reached regarding bond. A neighbor noted the couple have three children.
Following their arrest, they were held Thursday by Palos Heights police, but were then scheduled to be transferred Friday to Cook County Jail.
Michelle Sopko, formerly a part-time bookkeeper/administrative assistant with the fire protection district, allegedly manipulated payroll and accounts payable systems to hide the diversion of $352,000 to the couple’s bank account over a period of about 30 months from 2009 to 2012, according to Cook County sheriff’s police.
She was fired from her job a year ago when Fire Chief Timothy Sarhage discovered that she had signed the fire district treasurer’s name on a check without the treasurer’s knowledge or consent, according to the fire district.
She is a member of the Arbor Park School District 145 Board while her husband is a deputy fire chief in Oak Forest, vice president of the park board and co-founder of the Oak Forest Fury lacrosse team.
The Sopkos are both charged with felony theft of more than $100,000 in government property.