Tollefson to get out of jail; slated for drug treatment

Don Tollefson, in handcuffs, center, is escorted out of District Court in Warminster by two Pennsylvania State Constables on his way to prison after bail was set at $250,000 on Tuesday Feburary 18, 2014. Police in Bucks County arrest former Philadelphia sportscaster Don Tollefson on felony charges for failing to make good on promised sports tickets, airfare and hotels for various events across the country. 02/018/2014 ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Don Tollefson, in handcuffs, center, is escorted out of District Court in Warminster by two Pennsylvania State Constables on his way to prison after bail was set at $250,000 on Tuesday Feburary 18, 2014. Police in Bucks County arrest former Philadelphia sportscaster Don Tollefson on felony charges for failing to make good on promised sports tickets, airfare and hotels for various events across the country. 02/018/2014 ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Posted: March 28, 2014

Former Philadelphia sportscaster Don Tollefson will be released from jail Friday and transferred to an inpatient drug-treatment facility as he awaits trial on felony fraud charges involving an alleged travel-package scam, officials said.

The petition to release Tollefson was filed by a public defender - not the two high-profile attorneys who flanked him at his arraignment in Warminster in February, according to court documents. Bucks County Judge James McMaster granted the order on Tuesday, reducing Tollefson's bail from $10,000 to zero.

The use of a public defender may suggest a further fall from grace for Tollefson, who once earned nearly $5,000 a week at Fox before leaving the station in 2008.

His former attorneys, Michael McGovern and Ray McHugh, did not return calls for comment, nor did Bucks County public defender Christina King.

Last month, Tollefson told a district court judge at his arraignment that he had been sober for 131 days, although he didn't disclose his addiction. He will be taken to the Malvern Institute in Chester County, said Ryan Hyde, a Bucks County deputy district attorney.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 29.

Tollefson will leave jail after nearly 40 days through a county-sponsored program, Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities, operated by the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania Inc., a nonprofit program offering treatment to defendants who suffer from addiction.

"This is an opportunity for individuals whose drug and alcohol abuse has led them to criminal activity to turn their lives around," according to the nonprofit's website.

Hyde had argued at the February arraignment that Tollefson deserved high bail to prevent him from trying to scam more people.

Tollefson, 61, of Wyndmoor, is accused of fleecing at least 100 people out of more than $100,000 by selling bogus travel packages to sporting events in the name of charity. He had spent nearly 30 years at the city's Fox and ABC affiliates and was able to dupe many of his victims because of his celebrity status, police allege.

About half the packages were for Philadelphia Eagles road games. But other events included Super Bowls, Phillies spring training trips, and the Kentucky Derby, police said. They said his victims lived in Philadelphia, its neighboring counties, and the Lehigh Valley.

The packages were sold with the understanding that some of the money would go to a charity, such as one of Tollefson's organizations for children or an outside foundation.

Those included the Salvation Army, Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, and a foundation for the family of Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox, who was killed in the line of duty in 2012.


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

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