Oak Forest woman says husband did nothing wrong
By Casey Toner email@example.com March 5, 2014 7:26PM
Michelle Sopko / photo from Cook County Sheriff's office
Updated: April 7, 2014 1:31PM
An Oak Forest woman accused, along with her husband, of embezzling more than $350,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District said Wednesday he had nothing to do with the alleged crime.
Michelle Sopko, the wife of Oak Forest Deputy Fire Chief Charles Sopko, made the statement in a telephone interview with the SouthtownStar. She declined further comment on their ongoing criminal case.
“My husband had nothing to with the Palos Heights Fire Protection District,” she said. “He’s a good person, he’s a good man, and he had nothing to do with the fire department there.”
The politically connected couple are accused of taking $352,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District over 30 months from 2009 through 2012.
Prosecutors say Michelle Sopko, who was a part-time bookkeeper/administrative assistant for four years with the fire district, manipulated payroll and accounts payable systems to divert the $352,000 in fire district funds to the couple’s bank accounts. The couple have pleaded not guilty to the charges and next are due in court April 5.
Jason Danielian, Charles Sopko’s attorney, said in court last month that Michelle Sopko hid the scheme from her husband as well as the fire protection district.
“They didn’t know, he didn’t know,” Danielian said to Judge John Hynes. “They trusted her, he trusted her.”
The couple are on house arrest while awaiting trial. Michelle Sopko lives in the couple’s home while Charles Sopko lives with his parents.
Last month, Hynes granted Charles Sopko permission to leave the home to see if he could resign as deputy fire chief and resume working as a lieutenant. Charles Sopko has been suspended since his arrest.
City administrator Troy Ishler told the SouthtownStar in an email that city officials since have told Charles Sopko he could not return to any position “until his legal issues are cleared up.”
Michelle Sopko maintained that she and her husband did nothing wrong in any of their Oak Forest positions.
Michelle Sopko was an Arbor Park School District 145 board member until she resigned in January. Charles Sopko is the Oak Forest Park District vice president and founder of the Oak Forest Fury, a park district lacrosse program.
Charles Sopko also is the league director of S.A.K. basketball and Michelle Sopko is a member of the organization’s board of directors. She also is one of 25 Oak Fest committee members and is in charge of bingo during the five-day summer festival.
“We are involved in Oak Forest because we love Oak Forest,” Michelle Sopko said.