Police probe Tollefson's sale of game trips
At first, Jeff Davis stuck up for Don Tollefson, telling his friends that the longtime sportscaster would make good on his promises.
That was in February, when Davis and a group of friends traveled with Tollefson to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Tollefson had sold each a $2,500 travel package that was to include airfare, accommodations, and tickets to the big game. The money, they were told, was going to his Winning Way charity for troubled youth.
But Davis said no plane tickets existed for them when they got to the airport. They bought their own when Tollefson promised to reimburse them. Then they all had variants of the same experience at the hotel and the stadium, Davis said.
Davis, who lives in the Lehigh Valley and had been on previous Super Bowl trips with Tollefson, assured them that they would be paid back. So far, however, that hasn't happened.
"I was amazed," said Davis, who is still out $1,400. "We never experienced anything like it."
Davis is one of a growing number who have said in recent weeks that they were victims of Tollefson's broken promises, almost all of which have allegedly involved game packages and one of his charities.
Police in Warminster and the Bucks County District Attorney's office are investigating.
Attempts to reach Tollefson at his home were unsuccessful.
His former employer, 6ABC, reported Friday that Tollefson was receiving treatment in an inpatient facility, although the report did not specify what type of treatment.
In a statement released by the station, Tollefson said his charities had been experiencing financial difficulties and that he eventually would resolve all issues, "after I am discharged. I am truly sorry for any inconvenience and anxiety caused by these circumstances."
Tollefson also worked for Fox29 and most recently hosted Tolly's Awesome Friends on a Cherry Hill-based station. The show stopped airing in April.
A search of Pennsylvania, New Jersey. and federal databases showed that none of the four charities with which Tollefson associated himself when he solicited donations - directly or through the sale of sports packages - was ever registered as a nonprofit.
According to state charity registration databases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Tollefson never registered a charity known as One Child. Nor is it registered with the IRS as a nonprofit. Under IRS rules, those seeing federal, tax-exempt, nonprofit status must file first with their respective states. None of three other charities associated with Tollefson - Winning Ways, Employ Young Adults, and Tackle Hatred Now - was registered.
The charities might have qualified legally for exemptions, but information about them was scarce.
The website for his Employ Young Adults operation is www.employyoungadults.com; most registered charities use an ".org" Internet domain.
The Employ Young Adults website accepts credit-card and PayPal donations, and lists a post office box in Philadelphia, but does not list an address or contact information other than a form for prospective donors.
"Help us honor the children of One Child Saved & Winning Ways," says a message on the home page of the Employ Young Adults website. "Your donation will help so much with our respect camps, scholarship programs & our partnership with the U.S. military."
The website is unclear on the nature of that partnership.
Tollefson also has at least one other website soliciting donations, TixR4Kids.com, which says "it was founded in 2011 by longtime Philadelphia sportscaster and community activist Don Tollefson. There should not be unused tickets to sporting events that could be used by inner-city youngsters. Many of these youngsters have never been to a college or pro sporting event.
"Whether you are able to donate tickets or money or both, we are very thankful for your support!!"
Dino Cantelmi of Bethlehem, Pa., said he was still waiting to be paid back for a Super Bowl trip with Tollefson.
"I'd like my money back - I have four kids," Cantelmi said. "But I kind of feel bad for him. I say a prayer for him. And hopefully he'll get the help he needs."