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School volunteer arrested on theft charges

Kristen Soprito is being held on $20,000 bail at the Multnomah County Detention Center

After a nearly six-month investigation, a Gresham woman accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from a local elementary school is behind bars.

Gresham police early Monday, June 4, arrested Kristen Michael Soprito, 42, the former treasurer of the Kelly Creek Elementary School Parent-Teacher Club, on four counts of first-degree theft, according to Multnomah County Sheriff's Office jail records. She is being held on $20,000 bail at the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Soprito is accused of stealing $11,000 from the club's fund between August 2009 and October 2011, according to a police report.

Students raised the money by selling entertainment books, cookie dough, movie tickets and holiday greenery, among other fundraisers. It was earmarked for field trips, books and classroom computers.

Police began investigating Soprito in December 2011 when the school's principal reported the suspected embezzlement.

At the time, parents and teachers in the Orient area were reeling from a similar situation in which another Gresham woman was accused of stealing nearly $17,000 from the Orient Parent Teacher Club.

Jenifer Lynn Sayles, 34, of Gresham volunteered as treasurer of the club, which raises money on behalf of both East Orient Elementary School and West Orient Middle School.

Gresham police on March 7 arrested Sayles on three counts of first-degree theft and one count of identity theft. She has since been released.

Regarding Soprito's arrest, 'We're just really happy that the court system is taking it forward,' said Michelle Kahan, president of the Kelly Creek Elementary School Parent-Teacher Club. 'And we put our full trust in them to follow through with this.'

Embezzlement suspects often are not initially arrested or indicted because the investigations are so labor intensive, requiring a lot of documentation and time, said Detective Bob Fay with the Gresham Police Department.

Unlike Sayles, who repaid $6,100 of the money she allegedly stole, Soprito has not paid anything back, Kahan said. 'We're hoping to be able to get the money back in full,' she said.

Since the investigation began last December, the club has bolstered its accounting systems to avoid future financial crimes. It also has worked with teachers and parents to raise money and grant dollars to pay for a few select field trips. The others had to be canceled.

The club also purchased fewer new computers than it had planned to buy and scaled down festivities for the upcoming fifth-grade promotion/graduation ceremony.

'Everyone has really come together,' Kahan said of the Kelly Creek community. 'We are just really appreciative to our whole community for helping.'