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Bail Set at $100K for Couple Accused of Palos Heights Embezzlement Scheme

Bond was set at $100,000 for a former Palos Heights Fire Protection district employee and her deputy fire chief husband who are each charged with embezzling over $350,000 in taxpayer money.

Charles and Michelle Sopko, of the 5200 block of Kathleen Court in Oak Forest, are each charged with felony theft of government property. Photo: Palos Heights PD
Charles and Michelle Sopko, of the 5200 block of Kathleen Court in Oak Forest, are each charged with felony theft of government property. Photo: Palos Heights PD

Before a courtroom crowded with family and firefighters, the case against a former Palos Heights Fire Protection District employee and her husband was described in detail during a Monday morning bond hearing.

Michelle and Charles Sopko were charged last week with felony theft of government property for their roles in what prosecutors allege was a $350,000 embezzlement scheme carried out over 30 months during her employment with the fire district.

The couple, who are being represented by separate lawyers, were individually brought into the courtroom in jail-issued blue uniforms as Judge Kerry Kennedy set bail at $100,000 for both Sopkos, meaning they will have to pay $10,000 to bond out. However, prosecutors asked for and were granted a Jan. 6 hearing to determine where that money was coming from in order to ensure that it was not obtained from illegal activities.

Michelle Sopko broke down in tears upon hearing the ruling.

Her husband, Charles Sopko, could bond out if his lawyer and family can produce documentation on the source of his bond funds.

The hearing also gave insight into the prosecutors case against the couple and the likely defense that Charles Sopkos' attorney Jason Danielian would be pursuing.

Michelle Sopko is accused of funneling money from the Palos Heights Fire Protection District through various schemes into the couple’s joint account. Charles Sopko is an Oak Forest Fire Department Dep. Chief. His attorney argues that he was unaware of his wife’s actions.

Read More Details: Prosecutor Describes Palos Heights Fire Employee's 'Complicated Scheme to Embezzle'

Also at the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael O’Malley revealed that over the past few months the couple had been collecting cash donations for tornado victims in Washington, Ill., an effort O’Malley says was published on Oak Forest’s village website. In light of the charges, Judge Kennedy issued an order that all funds collected from that endeavor were to be frozen until they can be properly examined and distributed.

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