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Oak Forest Couple Accused of Embezzling Out on $10K Bonds

A judge ruled this week that the money used to pay for their individual bonds didn't come from their alleged embezzlement of more than $350,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District, Sun-Times Media reports.

Charles and Michelle Sopko | Credit: File Photos
Charles and Michelle Sopko | Credit: File Photos
Charles and Michelle Sopko were released on a $10,000 bond each Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, after a hearing determined that the money used to pay them was not part of the more than $350,000 in funds they're accused of embezzling from the Palos Heights Fire District, Sun-Times Media reports.

READ: Check Out the Full Sun-Times Media Story for More Details

Charles, a deputy chief with the Oak Forest Fire Department on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, will be living with his parents after the release, the report stated. Michelle, who was a part-time employee of the Palos Heights fire district, will stay at the couple's Oak Forest home, the report added.

The two will be back in court Monday, Jan. 13, at the Bridgeview courthouse.

Charles Sopko also asked the Oak Forest Fire Department to buy out more than $4,000 in unused sick time from 2013 less than two weeks before the couple's Dec. 19 arrest, the Sun-Times Media report stated.

READ: Oak Forest Residents React to Sopkos' Arrest, Accusations

The Sopkos are accused of funneling $352,938 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District and into a shared bank account. The embezzlement included collecting overtime payments which she did not earn, nor was entitled to earn. She also created a ghost payroll in which she directed payments to two nonexistent employees into her own account, using a former employee's social security number to create the phantom employees.

CORRECTION (1:11 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Charles Sopko's employment status with the Oak Forest Fire Department. It has been corrected.

Read More on the Sopkos Case:
Reality Check! January 10, 2014 at 09:21 AM
So they are going to separate so he can pretend he's angry with her, and keep up the charade the he didn't know anything about it......
JennyandHannah DeWilde January 10, 2014 at 10:02 AM
You can assume all you want but assumptions are just that, assumptions. Everyone is entitled to a jury of their peers. The facts will be stated then and the judgments can be made then, too. Until then opinions are just assumptions.
Stuck in OF January 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM
how are they paying for their lawyers? do they have to prove that the lawyer payments aren't coming from illegal funds? is that $5000 in unused sick pay, paying for legal fees while they still have outstanding property taxes due
Sam January 10, 2014 at 01:04 PM
The article says Charlie is a former deputy fire chief; was he fired?
Dave Hernandez January 10, 2014 at 02:00 PM
Jenny and Hannah, can I assume that the money is missing and someone should return it?
Joe Vince (Editor) January 10, 2014 at 02:29 PM
@Sam: No change in his status. That was my mistake. I've corrected it. Sorry about that. Thank you for pointing it out. —Joe Vince, Tinley Park-Oak Forest Patch Editor
b January 10, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Must be nice to still collect a paycheck while sitting in jail
b January 10, 2014 at 05:09 PM
Wouldn't make more sense to suspend his pay until the investigation is over. I would have no problem with him getting back pay if found not guilty. How does the city plan on recouping all this pay if found guilty which seems very possible.
Jennifer D. January 10, 2014 at 08:33 PM
Facts are facts, why would you assume a fact? I'm simply suggesting that there are a lot of facts we don't know and until they either plead out or go to trial, assumptions hold no value, but facts do. Obviously, there's a major wrongdoing here and a crime committed but there are a lot of facts still to be heard. I'm waiting for the rest of the facts.
kerri bielewicz January 11, 2014 at 11:38 AM
Maybe everyone should just mind their own business and let the courts decide who did what..I think we are forgetting that there are 3 innocent children involved that need to be worried about...and are probably reading all this trash talk about their parents.
Michael M. January 11, 2014 at 11:48 AM
I love people who tell others to mind their own business while that same person gets into our business. It is our business what we post, so mind your own business.
Michael M. January 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM
And get off your high horse. The courts represent the people and we have every right to discuss alleged crimes against us. If the kids do read this; then they can discuss it with their parents and their parents can apologize to the kids.
b January 11, 2014 at 11:53 AM
Maybe if this couple were as concerned about their three innocent children as many of the commentators are they wouldn't be in the jam they find themselves. As far as minding our own business this is a public news story that involves TAX PAYER MONEY! So maybe just maybe it is our business.
Michael M. January 11, 2014 at 11:54 AM
Damn right b. Totally agree.
Sue1 January 12, 2014 at 04:12 PM
You know, there used to be a person that thought they could tell me what I could have an opinion on and what I couldn't. I eliminated that position when I divorced him. This is all of our business by the simple fact that they are elected public officials entrusted with making decisions for us. The people that keep saying we should all just be quiet amaze me. I get that these people are your friends and you may feel loyalty towards them, but come on. The only ones that keep bringing the kids into this are you people. I haven't seen anyone say anything about the kids except for the people supporting them. The kids aren't charged with anything. Everyone feels for the kids. Should we really be censured because they have kids? So the news should not report on anyone that commits or is suspected of committing a crime if they have children? So you must also agree that the Jackson do their time separately so they can be with their children. Would the regular Joe get this same treatment? I don't see anyone complaining when the list of people who received DUI's is published, that its bad to publish this because this one has kids and the kids may read it. Do you really think their kids are going online and reading this site? Find that hard to believe. My nine year old could care less and if you asked him he wouldn't even know what this was. On the slim chance that they are, perhaps the oldest, you don't think they are wise to the fact that people have opinions? You don't think they ever got a lecture about behavior outside of the house because it could reflect back on their parents; that people may not like their parents because they were elected officials? You are just naive if you don't. Did you ever think maybe the fact that items have been published about their "alleged" crime that it opens the door for the parents to be truthful to the kids? As many others have said, it doesn't seem like the kids entered their thoughts when they were doing this. Think it is funny, that once the emails were published, Rita backtracked. I am also interested to know how the City paid Charlie when he was in jail. Did he use vacation time or did we just keep paying him? Why hasn't she resigned from the schoolboard? What's her plan there? Just not show up and see what happens? That isn't fair to the district. As for the sicktime payout, how many sick days to City employees get a year? How many are they allowed to roll over? Seems crazy that someone is allowed to have that many sick days. I get 10 a year, and I think that's pretty customary. If I don't use them I lose them. It can't be good for a business to pay out for them in lump sums. What if each employee decided to cash out? Can the City afford that? Are all employees afforded this option?
Michael M. January 12, 2014 at 04:23 PM
He is on administrative leave pending an outcome as I understand it. I think he asked to cash in vacation time before this all hit the fan. They both should resign their elected post for the interest of the people.
b January 12, 2014 at 05:04 PM
Sue1 What a great post. You stated it perfectly. I am loyal to a fault with my friends but if one steals from me and it affects my family then I have no sympathy for you. Before the bleeding hearts jump on me, remember it affects my family because these were our tax dollars.
Stuck in OF January 12, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Regarding all the questions being raised about Charlie being paid, resignations, etc. Might be a good idea to ask them to our elected officials at the meeting this week City Council Meeting Tuesday, January 14, 2014 City of Oak Forest 8:00 P.M. City Council Chambers
jack hess January 13, 2014 at 04:33 PM
Charlie is getting paid by the City of Oak forest, what a slap in the the face of all TAX PAYERS OF OAK FOREST! They need to suspend him with no pay until there is a outcome from the court. Like someone said how would Charlie be able to pay back the City of Oak Forest. Is the City going backward to the DAYS of Corruption again? Remember this is the second time a Oak Forest Deputy fire Chief has been in trouble. If the court finds Charlie not guilty, then given him his back pay. This is a better way for the TAX PAYERS OF OAK FOREST. It only makes common sense. The history of Oak Forest has already proven the City Council and previous Mayors have failed the citizens of Oak Forest. Hopefully the present mayor and city council won't take this path to no common sense.
b January 13, 2014 at 05:13 PM
Back to the days of the Good Old Boys Club. Screw the citizens of Oak Forest ,we are going run this town our way and take care of those who are only in the "inner circle" Jack, you mention that suspending his pay would make sense. I have to ask when did this town do anything that made sense for the taxpayers? Everything is done with a wink and a pat on the back. If he is found guilty all that money they keep paying him will be forever lost. How many months will this take to come to trial. Must be nice to get paid for months and contribute nothing to the community. As Jack and I have stated, if he is found innocent give him back pay plus interest. When does the insanity stop?
jack hess January 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM
The court case will certainly get numerous of continuances. I don't think Charlie should get any interest paid, if found not guilty. Why should the TAX PAYERS OF OAK FOREST FOOT THE BILL FOR INTEREST! Let Charlie wife pay him the INTEREST BACK ON HIS BACK PAY! We are all so SCREWED by living in the most Corrupt State and County in the United States . We could move out, but we will not receive anything for our homes. We the citizens are prisoners in our own state, due to Corrupt Politicians and Judges.
Sue1 January 28, 2014 at 09:39 AM
I can't believe he is still receiving his salary either. He is management so he isn't covered by the contract. As a member of management in public service he has a duty to portray the department in a positive light. Does he have any kind of contract? Isn't he an at will employee? Didn't a school in a community around here recently fire a teacher that was arrested for a dui? He didn't have his day in court yet and he was covered by a contract and they fired him. I don't see how this is any different. Remembering back, Oak Forest has been through this before. There was a husband and wife, I think the wife worked for CBS and embezzled money. I believe both of them were charged and went to prison. There was the public works director, he went to jail, I don't believe his wife did. So you can't say he is being charged just because she is. The Sopkos have different charges. If they didn't have anything on him except for the fact that he was married to her, wouldn't the charges be the same? Again, then I fall back to the public works guy, his wife didn't go to jail. Joe, maybe you could check on that, was that guy put on paid administrative leave or was he terminated? Oak Forest saying they put him on paid leave until they complete an internal investigation is ludicrous. How would they be able to get all the information the County has? Are they going to subpoena all the Sopko's financial information too? For what? I don't even think they could do that unless they suspect or have proof of some crime being committed against the City. Are they doing an audit to try to determine any wrongdoing as far as the City is concerned? Why would they duplicate what has already been done? How long did the County take to complete their investigation? She was fired a year ago, so professionals that investigate financial crimes took this long to arrest them, what is Oak Forest going to do? Even if the City does this, these are two separate things. He should be at least suspended without pay just for the inability to represent the City in a positive light. That's part of his responsibility that he accepted when he accepted that position. I don't believe he didn't know. Even if you believe that, why did he think she was fired from her job? You can't tell me he didn't hear anything through the grapevine. Why didn't he separate from her at that time? Hope she is taking care and shares truthfully, no reason to protect him, he has thrown her under the bus. Say what you want, facts, blah, blah, innocent until proven guilty, blah, blah, I go back to the public works guy's wife. I don't recall her being charged with anything, so what's difference? The difference is mayoral support.
Joe Vince (Editor) January 28, 2014 at 11:39 AM
@Sue1: What public works department director are you referring to? When was this? Also, the Sopkos both face the same charge: felony theft of government property over $100,000. —Joe Vince, Tinley Park and Oak Forest Patch
jack hess January 30, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Joe . Sue is talking about Mike Feeley who was convicted in federal court over 10 years ago. Feeley was convicted of receiving kick backs from contractors doing business with the City of Oak Forest. Feeley was sentence to 8 years in the federal penitentiary. Feeley resigned from the city of Oak Forest as head of public works. Feeley wife was not charge because she did not have any knowledge according to federal agents assigned to this case. Also two contractors were sentence to federal prison time, Al Grove and i can't remember the other one. Joe do you know if the Fire Chief is on paid leave? Joe how about filing a freedom of information with the City of Oak Forest to see if the Fire Chief is on paid leave? Thanks Joe for keeping the citizens up dated on this matter.
Michael M. January 30, 2014 at 11:07 AM
My understanding is the Chief is on paid leave for medical reasons. Probably falls under FMLA and it is normal to be paid for this type of leave if one has sick or vacation time.
jack hess February 06, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Hey Joe Vince what going on with the Sopko's? No more news or just a cover up. Was the patch told not to put out anymore information on this case?
b February 06, 2014 at 01:22 PM
Hey Jack, would you be shocked if there is a gag order put on the Sopko case?

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