April 07, 2020

Little League chief charged in theft New Gloucester man accused of embezzling $10,000 from Freeport unit

PORTLAND – Felony theft and forgery charges face the president of the Freeport-Pownal Little League, who is accused of embezzling more than $10,000 from the organization.

John Rooney, 43, of New Gloucester allegedly took checks and forged signatures to draw money from the league’s account. League losses reportedly include $180 for insurance against criminal conduct, which would have covered the loss.

Freeport police Lt. Susan Nourse said the alleged thefts became apparent last month, and Rooney turned himself in at Cumberland County Jail in Portland last week.

“It took us some time to locate him,” Nourse said. None of the money was recovered, Nourse said.

Rooney is free on $500 bail from Cumberland County Jail.

“It’s not at all unusual for an institution the size of Freeport Little League to operate with a certain degree of trust,” said an attorney for the league, Arnold MacDonald. “There’s obviously a lot of anger and an overriding sense of wanting to take responsibility and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The league has several teams at different levels. Children ages 8 to 16 pay dues ranging from $35 to $50.

Losses reduced the organization’s savings but should have no impact on youths’ ability to play ball next year, league officials said.

The national Little League governing body and its subordinate divisions conduct background checks on league presidents. Volunteer forms say background checks “may include a review of sex offender registries, child abuse and criminal history records.”

But the required background checks of volunteers, including presidents, consists strictly of making sure volunteers are not on the state’s sex offender list, said Chris Downs, spokesman for the national Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa.

“The primary focus of the background check is to protect the local league and specifically the children in that league from the risk of a sexual predator,” Downs said.

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