NEW HYDE PARK, Long Island (PIX11) -- It was looking like the Merillon Sharks Little Leaguers were going to end their summer on a high note.
The travel team, consisting mainly of 12-year-olds, was promised a game at Dreams Park in Cooperstown. Parents and players were excited -- until the promise ended in a financial nightmare.
"I was really devastated about the children,” said Tony Camilleri, the league’s chairman of the board. “I feel very bad for them, this is a chance of a lifetime."
Camilleri met with the Nassau County District Attorney's office for more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon because the team's coach, Vincent Carreca, allegedly stole nearly $12,000 worth of money the team raised for the trip.
"In this particular case, this guy obviously turned out to be a rogue coach,” Camilleri said. “He basically took the money that he raised through fundraisers and the money that he got in fees, that checks were made out to him, and spent the money.”
Camilleri added that Carreca's actions even cost his own son, a player on the team, a chance at Little League glory.
PIX11 made several attempts to connect with Carreca at his home, but no one answered the door.
When he became aware of Carreca's alleged actions two weeks ago, Camilleri said he dismissed the coach and reported him to Nassau County's top prosecutor.
"As soon as we found out, we fired Coach Carreca,” the chairman said. “I went to the DA, we've made a complaint with the DA, they are forwarding [it] to the fraud unit to see."
When asked why a Little League coach would allegedly take $12,000 from his players, Camilleri was befuddled.
"That is a good question,” he said. “I don't know. It's sad. It really is."
Paul Linzer, the counsel representing Carreca, sent a letter recently stating that everyone would be reimbursed. But Camilleri said no one has yet to receive payment of any kind.
Tuesday evening, Linzer sent a statement to the media saying:
"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."