A former Philadelphia sportscaster who claimed he was going to bat for charity actually kept the money, according to prosecutors.
Don Tollefson was slapped with a number of theft charges on Tuesday. The accused didn't say anything as he was led into the Bucks County Courthouse.
Prosecutors said there are more than 100 victims, including some from Berks County.
While they don't know the motive, prosecutors said they do know each case started the same way.
“They’re usually tied to a sporting event," said Ryan Hyde, Bucks County assistant district attorney and lead prosecutor on the case."I think the charitable solicitation in this particular case is that he would state for 'x' number of dollars, half of those dollars to be split between his charities and half to another charity.”
Prosecutors said the only person who pocketed the money was Tollefson. A well-known Philadelphia sportscaster, he used his celebrity status to emcee and host charitable events or sell sports trip packages.
Tollefson promised half the money would go to charities like the Salvation Army or Special Olympics of Pennsylvania.
“Mr. Tollefson then would not provide any of those benefits and certainly would not provide half of the funds promised to the organization,” added Hyde.
Investigators started looking into the bogus trips last October after being approached at a memorial run for slain Plymouth Township police Ofc. Brad Fox, according to court documents.
“There were people at that event who approached Warminster police after the sporting event that they had bought tickets to," said Hyde. "They never received the tickets."
In court, Tollefson told the judge that he was surviving on Social Security and disability. He also told the judge that he is in a treatment program, having been sober for 131 days.
That was the only time Tollefson spoke. Prosecutors alleged Tollefson stole more than $100,000 from more than 100 people.
"We’ve had victims from New Jersey, from Philadelphia, all of the surrounding counties," said Hyde. "From Lehigh County, I believe we’ve heard from some people in Berks County. It’s generally a very wide swath."
If charged with the maximum for each offense, Tollefson could spend the next 44 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Warminster police are also asking for any other victims to call them at 215-343-0100 or 215-672-1000.