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The parents thought they were investors in their children’s future when they ponied up $500 for each young player to join a fledgling St. Mary’s youth baseball program.

A mother in Leonardtown said Monday that she and her husband felt differently after a police investigation of the program’s founder, leading to his arrest last week on theft charges.

“We were victims,” she said.

Michael Shayne Erdolino, 38, of Hollywood was released last Thursday on $5,000 bond to await a court hearing on the charging papers alleging he started the youth baseball league last fall, received $500 each from the families of five recruits and set up a pair of “spirit night” fundraisers — but held only a few practices. Charging papers also allege that Erdolino promised there would be qualified instructors, uniforms and equipment provided through his Southern Maryland Athletics program, but no uniforms were issued.

Erdolino told police last month that he maintained no records, charging papers state, and that “he did not feel the need to explain how he managed ‘his organization’ to anyone.” He told police that no team was formed, and he had thus far held only tryouts.

A court commissioner issued the charges earlier this month that Erdolino stole the money from Joseph Willis, Melissa Mattingly, Carolyn Gunther, Vicky Horsman and Michael Erickson. Online directory information records indicate that the parents live in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.

Erickson also agreed to put up $793 to buy doughnuts for a fundraiser, court papers state, and that money was never reimbursed, although Erickson told police that he estimated the event’s profit should have been about $2,600.

In addition to the sale of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, court papers state, the fundraisers for the program included “spirit nights” at the Roy Rogers restaurant in Solomons and Texas Roadhouse in California, a 50-50 raffle event and the sale of MVP discount cards.

All of the parents who’d paid for a child to take part in the sports program also participated in the fundraisers, court papers state, and Erdolino would pick up the money from the parents as the fundraising was in progress, collecting $10 or $20 at a time.

The parents’ records indicate that the total in players’ fees and fundraising profits exceeded $7,500, according to a charges application filed by St. Mary’s detective Sarah Russell.

“It’s really unfortunate that this gentleman did this to everyone,” the mother in Leonardtown, who asked not to be identified, said Monday. “We’re very incensed by this. The kids are ultimately the ones who pay the price.”

One child got into the program for free, according to the charging documents.

“When Erdolino was asked if he deposited $500 for his son’s player’s fee, Erdolino asked why that would be necessary,” the detective wrote in the charges application.