The La Pine youth baseball official who stole thousands of dollars from the league he oversaw said at his sentencing Wednesday he wants to redeem himself. But the judge reminded him that the community and his children are the people he needs to convince.
Casey K. Zampelli was given two years probation for skimming registration fees and donations from the South Central Little League when he was its president from 2016 to 2018. Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte accepted a statement from a league official who said Zampelli ran up $10,000 on the league’s credit card.
Forte departed from the district attorney’s recommended sentence in only one way. He ordered that parole and probation officials must select where Zampelli serves his 200 hours of community service to ensure his work benefits the public.
“Whether it’s 200 hours, 2,000 hours or 20,000 hours — I’m not sure it makes a lot of difference,” Forte said. “What is important is repaying the community and showing those kids in Little League that this process can unfold in a positive way.”
Zampelli, 45, had no prior criminal record when he pleaded guilty last week to four counts of first-degree theft. The charge carries a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of $125,000.
Zampelli has repaid some of the money taken from the league. But a restitution hearing is scheduled for next month because the sides disagree how much stolen money was repaid.
Zampelli came to the nonprofit South Central Little League having previously served as president of the Sisters Little League and as a volunteer in other local leagues.
Volunteers in La Pine became concerned when Zampelli would not relinquish control of bank statements or give access to the bank account, according to prosecutor Kyle Pearson, who represented the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office.
A new league secretary called police in March to say she’d uncovered thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases and withdrawals involving the league’s credit card.
Zampelli was notified of charges against him via a letter from the DA’s office, and an eight-count felony indictment was filed in June. He made his first appearance in court the next month and remained out of custody throughout the case.
He declined to give a statement at his sentencing, but answered several questions from the judge.
Forte talked about basketball star Michael Jordan, who was famously cut from his high school’s basketball team.
“He used that as an opportunity to hone his skills and be the best he could be,” the judge said. “And you can use this as an opportunity. You understand?”
“Redemption, your honor, is very important to me — redeeming myself,” Zampelli responded.
“You need to do that for your community,” Forte said. “And I don’t know how to tell you how to do that.”
Amanda Wright, the league secretary who first reported Zampelli to police, attended the sentencing alongside three other women and provided an impact statement for the court.
She told the judge Zampelli had approached the brand-new league when it was in dire need of an experienced leader.
“We welcomed him into our community and our league,” she said. “It wasn’t long before we started to notice that some of the wisdom and knowledge he claimed to have was exaggerated.”
Wright told the judge Zampelli’s actions have made it more difficult to recruit sponsors and donations. She said Zampelli spent the money on family trips, clothes and other “garbage.” She called him “the lowest of low I have ever met.”
“I wish I could find the words to express how much Casey has stolen from us,” Wright said. “The money he took was not South Central Little League’s money, it was money that families and businesses had given out of their pockets. … He stole from an entire community.”
Zampelli’s attorney, Shelby Thomas, told the judge the events of the case were preceded by a car crash that caused Zampelli to lose his job as an insurance analyst and processor for St. Charles Bend.
“He was pretty desperate at the time,” Thomas said.
Forte didn’t seem to buy it.
“I hear about this issue — this traffic accident or something — that caused you to lose employment,” Forte told the defendant. “But you know, there are lots of people who have lots of things happen to them that are detrimental, yet they don’t commit crimes.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org