Alleged embezzler quits SD 145
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org January 20, 2014 4:34PM
Michelle Sopko / photo from Cook County Sheriff's office
Updated: February 22, 2014 6:24AM
An Oak Forest woman, accused with her husband of embezzling $352,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District, on Monday resigned her seat on the Arbor Park School District 145 Board, the district superintendent said.
Michelle Sopko sent the district a two-sentence letter announcing her resignation, District 145 Supt. Allen Jebens said.
“It think she recognized it was going to be a distraction for the district, and I think she recognized she needs to put her attention to other things, too,” Jebens said.
The district has 45 days to appoint a replacement for the remainder of Sopko’s term, which expires in April 2015.
Michelle and Charles Sopko, an Oak Forest deputy fire chief, were arrested Dec. 18 at their home and charged with felony theft of government property for allegedly embezzling the funds from the Palos Heights district over a 30-month period from 2009 to 2012.
Michelle Sopko, who was a part-time bookkeeper/administrative assistant with the fire district, manipulated payroll and accounts payable systems to divert district funds into the couple’s bank account, according to prosecutors.
Palos Heights police said fire district officials were aware of missing funds when Sopko was dismissed from her job in December 2012 due to incompetence and after the fire chief learned that she had signed the district treasurer’s name on a check without the treasurer’s knowledge or consent.
Charles Sopko, who is on paid leave as the Oak Forest deputy fire chief, is vice president of the Oak Forest Park District Board and co-founder of the Oak Forest Fury lacrosse team, a park district program.
He’s also the league director of S.A.K. basketball, and Michelle is a member of the organization’s board of directors and is in charge of concessions, according to the S.A.K. basketball website.
S.A.K. basketball treasurer Matt Manta said the Sopkos are no longer “active members” and he hasn’t spoken to them since before they were arrested. He also said they were not listed on any S.A.K. bank accounts.
The Sopkos are out on bail and are due in court Feb. 7.