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Probable Weekend in Jail for Couple Accused of Embezzling $350K from Palos Heights Fire District

The couple appeared in court with separate lawyers and will have to wait until Monday for a bond hearing.

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
The husband and wife charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars appeared briefly in court Friday morning. 

Michelle Sopko and her husband Charles Sopko, both of Oak Forest, were scheduled to appear for a bond hearing after they were arrested on Thursday and charged with felony theft of government property over $100,000. However, because the judge who issued the warrant was not present the couple will likely spend the weekend in Cook County Jail. 

In brief appearances Friday morning Michelle and Charles Sopko, who are being represented by separate attorneys, were brought into court to be told that they will have to wait until Monday for a bond hearing. The Sopkos, still wearing the clothes in which they were arrested, did not speak during the proceedings. 

Michelle Sopko worked as a part-time administrative assistant at the Palos Heights Fire Protection District for just over four years. She is accused of funneling $350,000 of district funds into a joint bank account with her husband, police said. 

Read: Former Palos Heights Fire Protection District Employee Accused of Embezzling $350K

Judge Peter Felice told both Sopkos and their lawyers that they would have to spend the weekend in custody until the judge who signed their arrest warrant could hear their case. 

John Eannace who is representing Michelle Sopko, said the couple's three children should be considered. 

"She's going to have to wait for Judge Kennedy," Felice said in response. 

Family members for both husband and wife filled the small courtroom for their unexpectedly brief appearances. 

Both lawyers made it clear to the judge that the couple would be represented separately and requested that they each appear before the judge individually. 

The Sopkos will return to court on Monday, Dec. 23. 

The couple has deep ties to the Oak Forest community. Michelle sits on the Arbor Park School District 145 Board of Education. Charles is a deputy fire chief with the Oak Forest Fire Department, is the vice president of the Oak Forest Park District and founded a youth lacrosse team. 

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