Play bawl! Scam artist uses beloved little league’s name as he peddles for donations

A money-hungry confidence artist has bilked dozens of people while pretending to collect donations for the Gil Hodges Little League, a 52-year-old organization that locals love to support.

Members of the Grace-Gravesend Athletic Association, which runs the Little League and two other leagues, say the scam artist has been going door to door in Gravesend, Marine Park, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, claiming to be collecting money for the 700 children enrolled in its baseball, softball and basketball programs.

The would-be thief began going door to door last October and has been seen in a different neighborhood every few weeks, association Executive Director Frank Lo Piccolo explained.

“I wish he’d come to my house. I’d grab him on the spot,” Lo Piccolo seethed. He assured us, however, that he would hold the con man for police, not take a bat to him.

“I feel bad that he’s using our name in this. People are giving him a lot of money and all I can tell them is, ‘Sorry about that, but he’s not with us.’ ”

The would-be thief last surfaced on April 10, visiting homes near the corner of Avenue S and McDonald Avenue, where big-hearted residents gave the man more than $70.

The flim-flam artist, described by many as a well-dressed white man in his 20s or 30s who carries around a clip board, told his victims that the money would go to “helping poor kids play baseball.”

But Lo Piccolo says his Little League program almost never seeks donations this way.

The Grace-Gravesend Athletic Association raises money through raffle sales. It also rents out advertising space at its field near the corner of Gravesend Neck Road and West Street, holds fund raisers and receives money from local politicians.

The seven-month manhunt for the sticky-fingered charlatan was thrown into high gear last week when the would-be thief visited an aide to Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island). Recchia regularly earmarks funds to the Grace-Gravesend Athletic Association, Lo Piccolo said.

“[The aide] knew better and didn’t give the guy anything, but one of her neighbors gave him $20,” Lo Piccolo said.

News of the swindle prompted Recchia to put out a widespread warning about the con artist.

“South Brooklyn is full of worthy service organizations and generous people willing to support them,” Recchia said. “It’s wrong for someone to take advantage of people like this.”

Anyone with information regarding the con man’s whereabouts is urged to call the NYPD at (800) 577-8477. All calls will be kept confidential.

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