READ: Oak Forest Deputy Fire Chief, Wife Arrested for Allegedly Embezzling $350,000
Michelle Sopko is accused of redirecting the fire district's money to the couple’s joint bank account. She worked as a part-time administrative assistant from 2008 through 2012 in the district .
Charles Sopko is a deputy chief for the Oak Forest Fire Department and is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
READ: Prosecutors Describe Oak Forest Woman's 'Complicated' Embezzlement Scheme
The Sopkos were charged with with felony theft of government property over $100,000, a Class X felony. Bail was set at $100,000 for the two, which means they need to $10,000 to post bond.
The couple, who are being represented by separate lawyers, are scheduled to appear at a hearing Monday, Jan. 6, to make sure any bond money paid was not obtained from illegal activities.
News of the arrest and the circumstances surrounding it surprised and upset many Oak Forest residents. Here are what some readers have been saying on Patch and Facebook as this legal drama has unfolded. (Editor's Note: Comments have been edited for length):
Shocked and Upset
Sam: "[M]any of us know this family personally and are quite shocked about this, but it doesn't change what they've done. They've committed a huge crime."
Catherine Sabeckis Casper: "I am so annoyed with how certain people want the public to feel bad for these two. (I do feel for their children.). I don't care who they are. They broke the law! Show them compassion? Are you seriously kidding me?"
NANCY GRACE: "Just comical how people could say he didn't know what was going on...my husband and i share a joint account and i can assure you that at some point a red flag would arise if 'mystery money' repeatedly was deposited into our account...he knew, next excuse."
Tricia McKenna: "I find it impossible that he didn't know where the money was coming from, come on. … Btw, what a stand up guy to throw your wife under the bus and accept no responsibility for the actions of both of them. His family should be proud. I really hope he no longer remains our [deputy] chief."
Roscoe: "By far this is the surprise story of the year for the Oak Forest and Tinley area. I feel for the family but man....how stupid do you have to be to think you could get away with that. Good bye pension Charlie."
Phyllis Berngen: "Please have some compassion for them and their children. It's Christmas. He who is without sin, may cast the first stone."
Joan Hoye Bravo: "Wow, what happened to innocent until proven guilty in a court of law? It is not up to me or anyone else to pass judgement on Charlie or Michelle Sopko. We do not know the facts, only what is reported by the news media. I know of may couples where one spouse manages the bills, checkbook, bank statements, etc. and the other knows nothing about the funds in the accounts. Who's to say that this is not the case with this couple. Let them have their day in court. I feel horrible for the children and those that love the Sopko family."
Colleen Irish: "I really hope this isn't true, they are great people with kids!"
How Did They Get Away?
Oak Lawn Resident: "Clearly, there are a number of internal control deficiencies. Palos Heights' internal audit function should have been able to identify and mitigate these risks if their methodology followed a risk-based approach. Palos should strongly consider reviewing their current internal audit function to determine the auditors competence and capability to serve as Palos Heights' third line of defense."
Kimberly Lynn: "It's kinda crappy that he is saying he had no idea what she was doing. Obviously you would notice it if you had extra money that wasn't part of your pay. They both should just admit to it and just do the time for it."
OF: "That's a lot of dough man. What the hell were they spending that much on? That's just way too flamboyant to go unnoticed. How could he have not noticed that? You can claim dumb guy at maybe with a couple grand but 'holy crap'."
And then there was the one reader, Titan Dad, who thought he was writing jokes for a late-night show monologue:
"How happy are Geico customers after saving on average up to 15% on their car insurance? I'd say about as happy as a Sopko with access to somebody else's money!"
Check Out Patch's Coverage of This Continuing Story