Grayslake woman pleads not guilty to PTO thefts
By Beth Kramer email@example.com December 5, 2012 7:12PM
Updated: January 7, 2013 7:14AM
The Grayslake woman accused of wiping out Frederick School’s PTO fund pleaded not guilty to multiple felony counts Wednesday.
Elizabeth Bako, 40, pleaded not guilty before Lake County Circuit Court Judge Victoria Rossetti to two theft charges and two charges of unlawful use of a debit card with intent to defraud.
Bako is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the District 46 fifth and sixth grade school’s Parent Teacher Organization fund between April 20, 2011 and May 31 of this year. If she is convicted, Bako could spend up to seven years in prison for one of the theft charges, Rossetti said. She faces two to five years in prison for the other theft charge.
Bako faces one to three years in prison for the unlawful use of a debit card with intent to defraud charge. Probation is also a possibility for all the charges, Rossetti said.
The alleged theft happened when Bako was serving as the organization’s treasurer.
Bako was ordered not to have any contact with Frederick School as one of her bond conditions. She was released from custody in September.
Assistant State’s Attorney Don Tyer asked Rossetti to modify bond conditions so that Bako is not to have any contact with any of Frederick School PTO members. Rossetti granted the request, but also allowed Bako to visit the school for its holiday concert.
“She has a student at Frederick,” her attorney, Chris Lombardo, said.
Current Frederick School PTO President Katherine Rasmussen was present at Bako’s arraignment Wednesday.
“A debit card was never authorized under my presidency on the board,” Rasmussen said after court was over.
She also said that the PTO board has been reduced to four members to make it more effective.
“We’re just working hard to recover the funds to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Our focus is the kids,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen was accompanied by more than half a dozen other women who attended the hearing. Some were concerned parents like Sarah Watters. She is a former Frederick School PTO president.
“I’m just concerned that whatever is right to represents our students is what happens,” Watters said.
A source close to the school, who had spoken on the condition of anonymity, had said between $10,000 and $20,000 had been stolen from the PTO. That same source had also said that the PTO fund started with a zero balance this school year.
Rasmussen could not comment Wednesday on the PTO’s current balance, but she did say they have been fund-raising this school year.
Bako is also a former member of Woodview School’s PTO. That District 46 school is kindergarten through fourth grade. Bako is also involved with the Grayslake Colts Youth Football and Cheers Program.
“Those other organizations are aware of the situation (criminal charges pending against Bako). We have heard nothing back from them about being victimized,” Grayslake Police Chief Phil Perlini said Wednesday, adding there is not a pending investigation against Bako.
Bako is due back in court Feb. 19. Her trial is scheduled for March 18.