Former Philadelphia sportscaster pleads guilty to fraud counts

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2014 5:03 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - A well-known former Philadelphia sports broadcaster admitted in court on Monday that he defrauded more than 200 people and several local charities of more than $300,000 in a scheme that promised cheap tour packages to the Super Bowl and other events.

Don Tollefson, 62, of Glenside, worked for several Philadelphia TV stations and the Philadelphia Eagles football team, but he was best known for his work for WPVI Channel 6 Action News from 1975 to 1990. He was a popular figure outside the Philadelphia area thanks to cable systems that carried the station.

Tollefson pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court of Common Pleas to felony theft charges of as much as $317,000. There was no plea bargain, said Matthew Weintraub, deputy district attorney for Bucks County.

Addressing the court, located in the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Tollefson blamed his criminal acts on long-time addiction to painkillers, the prosecutor said.

"He would be asked to speak at charity events such as (fundraisers) for the Brad Fox Foundation or the Special Olympics," Weintraub said. "He would offer sports trip packages with very attractive, too-good-to-be-true pricing."

The Fox foundation was set up to benefit the children of a slain police officer.

When victims tried to take the trips they purchased to the Super Bowl or to Philadelphia Phillies spring training, they would discover the tour package was worthless. Charities expecting a share of the proceeds were also defrauded.

"He flimflammed both the people and the charities," Weintraub said.

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Tollefson has faced a number of civil suits in recent months from people he victimized. Authorities believe there are still victims who have not come forward.

He will be sentenced in 60 days. Weintraub said the sentence will depend on how much restitution Tollefson pays to his victims. He could receive anything from probation to state prison time, the prosecutor said.

Sharif Nabil Abaza, Tollefson’s lawyer, said that on Oct. 10 his client will have been “clean and sober” for one year.

(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)