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Article updated: 12/5/2012 4:44 PM

Grayslake woman pleads not guilty to theft of PTO funds

By Lee Filas

A woman accused of stealing more than $10,000 from a Grayslake parent teacher organization pleaded not guilty to theft in Lake County Court on Wednesday.

Elizabeth S. Bako, 41, of the 300 block of Woodland Drive in Grayslake, is charged with two counts of felony theft and two counts of using a debit card with intent to defraud.

Prosecutors claim Bako, who is free after posting $500 bail, knowingly obtained unauthorized control over property of the Frederick School PTO between April 2011 and May 31, 2012.

Frederick Elementary School serves students in grades five and six in Grayslake.

If found guilty of the most serious theft charge, Bako could spend up to 7 years behind bars.

In the most serious theft count, Bako is accused of stealing between $10,000 and $100,000 from the Frederick School PTO. In the second count, authorities accuse her of taking $500 to $10,000.

Court papers also allege Bako took more than $150 from a debit card assigned to the Frederick School PTO between July 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012.

During Wednesday's arraignment hearing, Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti said Bako is prohibited from coming into contact with members of the PTO and the Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board. Aside from attending one Christmas concert later this month, she is not allowed to be on Frederick School property.

Rossetti did give Bako permission to travel to Wisconsin for a holiday party later this month.

PTOs typically host a variety of fundraising activities to help pay for extras at schools, such as student field trips or outside performers for a fine-arts curriculum.

PTO President Katherine Rasmussen, who attended Wednesday's hearing with about 10 other Frederick School PTO members and parents, said the organization is working to recover the funds that were taken.

"Our number-one focus is on the children," Rasmussen said following the hearing.

Bako and with defense attorney Christopher Lombardo of Waukegan, refused to comment.

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