Tollefson guilty on all counts
As each of the five guilty verdicts was read aloud Wednesday, Don Tollefson simply nodded. He seemed neither upset nor surprised.
As each of the five guilty verdicts was read aloud Wednesday, Don Tollefson simply nodded.
He seemed neither upset nor surprised.
Over 11 days, the onetime celebrity sportscaster had given what he had hoped was the performance of a lifetime: Acting as his own lawyer, trying to convince the Bucks County jury that he was tortured by addiction and bad business skills but never meant to rip off anyone.
The verdicts on charges of money laundering and theft mean that Tollefson, 62 - who turned down a plea deal that would have meant just months in prison - could instead spend years there for fleecing people who thought they were buying his sports and travel packages.
After County Court Judge Rea Boylan raised his bail to $350,000, Tollefson was cuffed and led away.
"I'll continue to work on being sober and a better person any way I can, wherever I am," he told reporters outside the packed courtroom.
The county's chief of prosecutions, Matt Weintraub, called Tollefson a narcissist. "He has a God complex and loves himself more than anyone in the world," the prosecutor said.
The five women and seven men on the jury also found him guilty on three other charges, ending a trial that cemented his fall from Philadelphia's highest-paid sportscaster to convicted felon.
The former anchor for Fox29 and 6ABC sold bogus travel packages to sporting events in the name of his charity. His victims, whom he duped out of about $340,000, included about 200 sports fans who admired him, charitable organizations that trusted him, and a slain police officer's family.
"I think he's a good guy," the jury's foreman, Eric Dreyfus of Yardley, told reporters after the verdict. "But the evidence was there."
The prosecution's plea deal would have included about seven months in state prison and 14 months in drug-treatment programs. Tollefson rejected it, saying he committed no crimes.
What followed was 11 days of court proceedings and the unfolding story of Tollefson's squandered fortunes and broken promises.
The testimony ranged from dry recitations of Tollefson's bank records to tense confrontations between Weintraub and Tollefson over money that flowed from his charity, Winning Ways, to his personal bank accounts.
After losing his last TV job in 2008, Tollefson received more than $700,000 from his pension and an out-of-court settlement related to a car accident. He burned through all of it in less than four years. Then he started to hawk his travel packages.
He sold some, he claimed, to help raise money for the family of Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox, who was killed in the line of duty in 2012. But neither the buyers of the packages nor the officer's family got anything.
Darren Meehan, executive director of the Brad Fox 5K run, said the guilty verdict was bittersweet.
"There really are no winners here," he said.