At auction, dusty mementos from Tollefson's past

Crowds mill around the Columbus Boulevard facility where Don Tollefson's items were sold.
Crowds mill around the Columbus Boulevard facility where Don Tollefson's items were sold. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff)
Posted: February 26, 2014

For treasure hunters, Don Tollefson's public storage units held about as much value as some of the phantom sports travel packages he allegedly sold to people in the region.

Contents of the former sportscaster's storage bins were auctioned off Monday for less than $1,000, appearing to offer little more than a mess of dusty boxes, furniture, and some batting helmets.

Jailed since last week on fraud charges in Bucks County, Tollefson had stopped paying the rent at the facility on Columbus Boulevard in Center City, which entitled the owner to sell the contents. The event drew a couple of dozen bargain hunters and members of the media.

The units were each about the size of a small bathroom, available for about $50 a month, according to the website of Public Storage. The first unit was a chaotic mess of tattered and dusty cardboard boxes, busted lamps, a 1950s-era radio, and a molding jar of Progresso white clam soup.

Something of value may have been hidden behind the clutter. But people could bid only on what they saw. The bidding started at $800 but plummeted to $40 before anyone raised a hand. A man named Ed bought the locker's contents for $175.

The second unit, equally dirty and cluttered, held the kind of items that might be expected from Tollefson, who spent more than two decades reporting on sports for the city's Fox and ABC affiliates: Batting helmets, wooden hockey sticks, an opened box of Chicago Cubs baseball caps, a wicker basket, and several wooden frames. On the floor sat a dust-covered plaque from Mullica Hill that honored Tollefson for his work with a youth anti-drug program.

(At his arraignment last week, Tollefson told a Bucks County district judge he's been sober for 131 days.)

"Trash," said one attendee at the auction, Robert Johnson. "They should have just gave it away."

The bidding for the second unit topped out at $600, bought by a man smoking a cigar who would give only his initials, E.T., and said he was from Delaware County. The man said he had been going to such auctions for decades.

"Never judge a book by its cover," he said. "It's the nicest-looking ones that turn out to be the most disappointing. It's the messy ones that always surprise you."

Next up was Tollefson's Chevy Blazer, a 1990s model that lacked a title but contained a sun-bleached bottle of Diet Coke, shattered glass from a broken window, and a pile of potato chips spilled from a bag of Utz. The truck went for $100.

Ryan Hyde, who is prosecuting the case for the Bucks County District Attorney's Office, said detectives had visited the storage facility and found nothing worth seizing or using as evidence. But he said the detectives were unable to search the units thoroughly because they were such a mess. Hyde said that Tollefson also had rented units at other storage sites, but that their contents were auctioned off before the criminal investigation into his activities began.

Tollefson, who was arrested last week, is accused of fleecing more than 100 people out of $100,000. At various charity events during the last few years, police said, he sold travel packages to sporting events but failed to deliver the promised plane tickets, hotel rooms or, in some cases, anything at all.

Police said that the donations to buy the items also did not always make it to the charities, as Tollefson had promised. Police said that was the case last year in a fund-raiser for the family of Brad Fox, a Plymouth Township police officer killed in the line of duty in 2012.

Tollefson, 61, of Glenside, remains in jail after failing to post $10,000 bail, a figure that was lowered last week from $25,000.


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118

@Ben_Finley

www.inquirer.com/bucksinq

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