Oak Forest Residents React to Sopkos' Arrest, Accusations

Patch looks at how readers have responded to the Oak Forest couple accused of embezzling more than $350,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District. A hearing for the Sopkos is scheduled for Monday.

Charles and Michelle Sopko | Credit: File Photos
Charles and Michelle Sopko | Credit: File Photos
Days before Christmas, county and local law enforcement agencies descended on the Oak Forest home of Charles and Michelle Sopko to search for evidence and charge the couple in connection with claims of embezzling $350,000 from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District.

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."

Withholding Judgment

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."

"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
Tina Kilpatrick-Hughes January 06, 2014 at 01:28 AM
Ok what if he didn't know about it. Maybe he thought that she had a job the whole time and she really didn't. Maybe she just funneled the money because because she didn't want to work there or anywhere and maybe she thought it would be a good idea to just do that instead of working.
Carter January 06, 2014 at 03:50 PM
At this point I feel that the Sopkos and their lawyers are on damage control. Point to facts that limit his involvement or knowledge of her doings so that he has a chance to be there for the children. Jmo
Enough said January 07, 2014 at 08:29 AM
My hubby worked 6 - 10 hour shifts when kids were little. I had no way to make income. I went to nursing school, I worked my ass off raising a family. I volunteered where I could, always felt judged by the breast beaters. My kids didn't get IPads under the tree but they did get both their parents. She stole enough off Palos, if she is the wonderful person some are claiming she would save the taxpayers money - come clean and plea. I don't have to judge this Christmas was the beginning of her karma. I do feel bad for the kids, it isn't their fault their parents lack a moral compass, but they are going to pay. SMH
NRA MAN January 07, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Are they Democrats ?
Jim K January 08, 2014 at 11:55 PM
Going many successive years, making money, spending that money on bills and the rest on frivolous things. Then suddenly doubling your money intake, with no good reason, spending all of it between 2 adults. They both spent it and had no money to pay property taxes so claiming to not know anything is incredibly ridiculous. Just own your mistakes already and the penance might be less severe.
Dave January 10, 2014 at 08:39 AM
NRA Man, you're a moron.
Dan February 04, 2014 at 01:22 PM
no dave,your a moron


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