By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
---- — Dealing with the former operators of the Diamond Dreams baseball camp just outside the town of Springfield on U.S. Route 20 turned out to be a nightmare for local contractors, according to authorities.
An ongoing probe into an alleged scheme has identified 22 individuals and businesses who say they were ripped off by the former camp operators to the tune of more than a half million dollars, Senior Investigator Michael Ten Eyck of the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office said.
The couple who ran Diamond Dreams until last year, Jerry and Camille Arsenault of Onondaga, 57 and 58 respectively, were initially arraigned in Cooperstown Village Court on felony charges stemming from the investigation. They have been held at Otsego County Correctional Facility for lack of $250,000 bail.
The Arsenaults, who reside in Camillus, just outside Syracuse, reappeared in Springfield Town Court last Thursday, where they pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree grand larceny and scheming to defraud. Springfield Town Court Justice Peter E. Johansen kept bail intact at $250,000, and the couple were sent back to county jail after being unable to post bail.
All told, the sum owed to the victims of the fraud is $501,237, said Ten Eyck.
Those allegedly cheated by the Arsenaults either did work for the couple or delivered materials to the camp, and weren’t paid, Ten Eyck said. The fraudulent transactions, he said, took place in 2010.
Inspired by the success of Dreams Park in Cooperstown and Cooperstown All-Star Village in Oneonta, Diamond Dreams was built on a 62-acre parcel off U.S. Route 20 in the Herkimer County town of Warren, which is bracketed by two Otsego County towns of Richfield to the west and Springfield to the east.
The baseball camp has been snagged by civil lawsuits filed by neighbors, who maintained the town of Warren exceeded its authority by issuing a building permit to Diamond Dreams.
Douglas Zamelis, an environmental lawyer from Springfield who sued the Arsenaults on behalf of neighbors of the baseball camp, said the couple obtained the approvals from Warren town officials “on the quick and the sly.”
“My clients and I found the Arsenaults business practices and ethics to be highly questionable,” Zamelis said.
Jerry Arsenault, in an interview last year, said he expected the business will acquire all necessary permits it needs from state agencies. Zamelis said his research has determined the camp is now owned by DHL Softball Enterprises, which is based in the Albany area and is currently awaiting state Department of Health approvals for the camp.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s office and the Utica Police Department as well as the New York-New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force worked together with the Otsego Sheriff’s Office in tracking down the Arsenaults, Ten Eyck said.
The probe has been aided by District Attorney John Muehl, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Unit in Florida, and the state Department of Financial Services Criminal Investigations Unit, Ten Eyck said.
Investigators asked anyone who suspects they were ripped off by the Arsenaults to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 547-4363.