TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man who put on a gorilla suit and played mascot for the 1998 Toms River Little League baseball championship team has been sentenced to a 10-year prison term for stealing more than $237,000 from the league.

Fifty-two-year-old Richard Cunningham of Toms River was sentenced Friday in state Superior Court.

As the team’s mascot at the Little League World Series, Cunningham became known as “The Beast from the East.”

Prosecutors say Cunningham stole the money while treasurer of the Toms River East Little League between 2003 and 2007. He pleaded guilty in July to theft charges.

League officials told the Asbury Park Press that Cunningham left the league in debt, forcing it to raise registration fees and postpone planned field improvements.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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