Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office confirmed it’s investigating allegations made towards a Long Island little league coach, suggesting he kept $12,000 that players raised for a trip to Cooperstown.
Parents were outraged and children heartbroken to find the team would not be going to Cooperstown this year. They say Merillon Sharks coach Vincent Carreca, of New Hyde Park, told kids they were ready to go a few days before the trip. Then parents, who called Dreams Park in Cooperstown to confirm meal plans, learned the Sharks were not registered for the event.
“This is a horrible thing that happened,” one parent said, who asked not to be identified.
People close to the situation are reluctant to speak on the record—even when their comments are printable. Another parent, who has experience coaching in the Little League and at Cooperstown, said the event organizers may have caused the problem. He suggested the park’s payment scheduling for teams can be “prohibitive if not met on time.”
Still, parents weren’t notified. Everyone proceeded with the happy expectation of going to the Baseball Hall of Fame-town on the last weekend of August.
“Still a sad story,” the parent said.
The league paid the initial $1,000 deposit, with future payments due November 2013, March 2014 and June. League reps said Carreca even held a practice a few days before the planned trip. Merillon Athletic Association chairman Anthony Camilleri met with parents after he learned of the situation.
“[The board] had nothing to do with the operation or planning of the trip or reservations up at Cooperstown,” Camilleri said. “That is taken care of by coaches. I’d oversee what fundraising they would be doing, but never thought someone would steal the money.”
The little league had not missed a Cooperstown tournament since 2002, until last month. The league is already in planning stages for a 2015 trip. Camilleri said Carreca was fired as a coach and removed from the board a few days after information surfaced of the possible misuse of the funds, Camilleri said.
“He was supposed to go up to [Cooperstown] the last week of August,” Camilleri stated. “If a coach had enough money, he [handled the planning]. In this case, it was not handled well. The matter is in the DA’s office now.”
A rep from Rice’s office said they’re “investigating the allegation, but can’t confirm anything else at this time.” Rice’s office said “at this stage, we’re limited in being able to say anything.”
Carreca has not been arrested or charged at this time, did not return calls to his home for comment. Paul Linzer, Carreca’s legal counsel, said in a statement that his client “faithfully served the little league for many years and regrets the tremendous strife felt by the involved families, including his own. Mr. Carreca is handling this matter with the utmost seriousness and remorse, and will completely and fairly resolve the claims of the little leaguers’ parents in an expeditious fashion.”
Camilleri spoke with Linzer, saying “he told me that there was money in an escrow account for [Carreca] to make restitution.”