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White Oak animal shelter theft case postponed for the 3rd time

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 1:01 a.m.

Formal arraignment was continued for a third time for an Elizabeth Township man charged with the theft of $73,000 from the White Oak Animal Safe Haven.

The no-kill animal shelter's one-time vice president and manager, Frank Sabolcik, 33, remains free on $5,000 bond as he awaits a presentation of the charges against him in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Sabolcik's attorney said all three continuances were requested by the district attorney's office.

“I have no idea (why),” Ryan Tutera said. “I don't care to speculate.”

Sabolcik was arrested by county police on Aug. 8 and charged with felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and receiving stolen property.

A 15-page county police affidavit alleges that he misused a debit card and mishandled proceeds from a car raffle and a recycling program.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s spokesman Mike Manko was asked if there had been any change in the charges or if other arrests are anticipated.

“I'm not aware of any changes to the case,” Manko said in an email on Wednesday. “And I do not believe they are pursuing anyone else at this time.”

At a 45-minute preliminary hearing on Sept. 16 in Forward Township, Tutera and Assistant District Attorney Lee Goldfarb exchanged objections and dueled over the propriety of Sabolcik's actions between May 2011 and September 2012.

Magisterial District Judge Beth S. Mills found that a prima facie case existed and held the charges for trial.

She scheduled formal arraignment for Nov. 1, but it was continued until Nov. 25, then until Thursday, when it was postponed again.

It is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 9 a.m. in room 519 of the county courthouse.

Tutera said he remains convinced of his client's innocence.

“At the end of the day he will get his fair day in court,” Tutera said. “I believe in the justice system. It does take time, and in the end justice will be served.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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