Former White Oak shelter executive sentenced for theft
Former White Oak Animal Safe Haven vice president Frank Sabolcik was sentenced Monday to 11 1⁄2 to 23 months in Allegheny County Jail for theft and receiving stolen property during a 16-month tenure at the no-kill shelter.
Sabolcik, 34, of Elizabeth Township was convicted on two of three felony counts by an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court jury in February.
Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski, who presided over the trial, ordered three years of probation upon completion of the jail term.
Sabolcik was on probation at the time of his arrest in 2013 because he pleaded guilty before Sasinoski in 2011 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Sasinoski ordered Sabolcik to pay nearly $22,000 in restitution to the animal shelter. Sabolcik presented a check for $3,000 to shelter founder and president Ina Jean Marton in the courtroom.
“Justice has been served,” Marton said.
Sabolcik and defense attorney Ryan Tutera argued for probation, or at least work release, so that Sabolcik can continue to pay restitution.
“That's up to the warden of the Allegheny County Jail,” Sasinoski said.
Sabolcik testified that he has been sober for three years.
Marton disputed that in her testimony as a character witness for the prosecution.
“He was also observed at various times drinking alcoholic beverages at public bars and places while on court probation and wearing an ankle device,” Marton said.
“I do not hang out in bars,” Sabolcik said.
Sabolcik said he is working for his grandfather Frank Villi's plumbing company and that he planned to go to trade school in the fall.
“My grandfather is teaching me the business,” Sabolcik told the judge. “I am office manager and field supervisor for Parkway Plumbing and Heating.”
Assistant district attorney Jon Pittman sought a state prison sentence.
Tutera disputed statements attributed to his client by a court-appointed evaluator in a pre-sentencing report.
“(Sabolcik) did not state that he didn't believe there was anything wrong nor did he state that it was a big political case,” the defense attorney said.
“So this is out of thin air by the evaluator?” Sasinoski asked.
Outbursts by Sabolcik and his mother prompted Sasinoski to order sheriff's deputies to escort parties involved in the hearing out of his courtroom.
Sabolcik tearfully told the judge a jail sentence would kill his grandfather and put his parents into bankruptcy.
“My family depends on me for survival,” Sabolcik said. “Our business pays our household bills.”
“You'll be all right,” Villi, 86, said from a wheelchair as his grandson was being led out in handcuffs.
“It is not your fault,” Sabolcik told Villi. “It is the court's.”
Sasinoski called Sabolcik back in and said he should look in the mirror to see who is to blame.
“You should have thought of that when you were dipping into those coffers at the animal shelter,” the judge said.
Sabolcik's mother, Frances, pursued Pittman out of the courtroom when the sentence was handed down.
“We all make some type of mistake,” Frances Sabolcik told the judge. “He is so committed to family, our family and his extended family.”
Other character witnesses for Sabolcik including his father, Ronald Sabolcik, and two family friends.
“The staff entrusted Frank to perform a fair and honest job at the shelter,” Marton told the judge in a statement released to The Daily News. “As it turned out, money was being swindled by Frank from walk-in donations, pet adoptions and fundraising events.”
Marton said Sabolcik established a separate bank account under the animal shelter's name without consent from the shelter board or Marton.
She said Sabolcik posted derogatory comments about shelter personnel on Facebook, though she said she saw them second-hand when someone sent them to her phone.
Will there be an appeal?
“I have to discuss that with my client,” Tutera said.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or [email protected].