Former Pennsylvania sportscaster sentenced to prison for charity scam

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – A former Pennsylvania sportscaster was sentenced on Wednesday to serve up to four years in state prison for defrauding some 200 people in a charity scheme.

Don Tollefson, 62, of Philadelphia was found guilty in January of using unregistered charities and non-existent tickets to sporting events to scam people out of about $342,000.

In addition to his prison sentence, Tollefson on Wednesday was ordered to serve 15 years of probation and pay $164,528 in restitution.

Bucks County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said Tollefson could have gotten a lighter sentence if he had accepted an initial plea deal.

“My philosophy is that even a day in state prison is a lot for a person who has never been arrested and convicted before,” he said.

Tollefson represented himself in an 11-day trial, portraying himself as an incompetent businessman as he tried to fend off charges of theft, money laundering and violating state charities rules.

He had initially pleaded guilty to the five fraud counts, but withdrew his plea in December after saying he had found religion and had received divine guidance to fight to clear his name.

He was offered a plea bargain that would have required him to serve seven months in prison, followed by 15 months in a drug treatment program, conditioned on him making full restitution.

Tollefson rejected the deal the day before trial began.

From 1975 until 1990, he was a sports anchor for WPVI Channel 6 Action News, an ABC affiliate. He later worked for the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Eagles NFL football team.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bil Trott)

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