Ill. woman accused of deploying sophisticated embezzlement techniques

It's a fundamental error to suppose that intelligent employees are inherently trustworthy. Often, financial crimes with the greatest levels of negative impact require a high level of education or intuitive know-how, and the complexities involved in many embezzlement cases highlight this fact.

For this reason, it's imperative that business owners implement tools that provide visibility into company finances. Technologies like accounts payable audit solutions can offer vital advantages in firms' efforts to protect themselves from misuse of funds. Conversely, failing to attain financial transparency can give malicious insiders opportunities to abuse the power they may have over company accounting. 

A recent case provided insight into just how intelligent internal fraudsters can be. According to CBS Chicago, Charles and Michelle Sopko, husband and wife, were recently charged with embezzling $350,000 in taxpayer funds through the Palos Heights, Ill., Fire Protection District, where both of them formerly worked. Mrs. Sopko, who was fired from her position in 2012 for reasons not related to the case, had access to the fire department's payroll.

The most eye-opening aspect of the case is the cleverness of the techniques that the prosecution alleges Michelle Sopko used to perpetrate the thefts. According to the Tinley Park Patch, Assistant State Attorney Michael O'Malley accused the Oak Heights, Ill., woman of creating payroll accounts for fictional employees, as well as collecting payments for overtime she neither worked nor was qualified for.

The complexities of the case don't end there. The prosecution and the defense are also providing two conflicting perspectives on the involvement of Charles Sopko in the alleged crimes. 

"It's clear that as a deputy fire chief he is using his connections and power to his benefit," O'Malley remarked, according to the news source.

Jason Danielian, Mr. Sopko's attorney, placed the blame with his client's wife.

"She perpetrated a fraud against her employer, she perpetrated a fraud against her husband," Danielian said, the source reported.

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