Slow news day? Not in Philadelphia, where the newscasters are increasingly becoming part of the news. The latest casualty in this unfortunate trend is former Philly news broadcaster Don Tollefson, who’s surrendered himself to police this week on theft, fraud and solicitation charges.
According to NBC 10, Tollefson, who’s best known as a longtime sportscaster on Philadelphia’s ABC and Fox affiliate stations, allegedly scammed dozens of victims out of money that he solicited on behalf of charities like the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania and The Salvation Army.
Last fall, several victims in the alleged scam came forward claims that they purchased sports packages from Tollefson for charity, with the trips falling eventually falling through. But Tollefson told the Times Herald he canceled the trips because he wanted better travel accommodations for those who had bought the ticket packages: “The trips weren’t held up to the standard they had been before,” he said. “I made a personal decision not to do them this year.”
Police arrested the 61-year-old local news veteran on first- and third-degree felonies and misdemeanors, citing an investigation that shows Tollefson “victimized more than 100 individuals and misappropriated more than $100,000.” His bail was set at $25,000.
Unfortunately, Tollefson’s not the first Philly news anchor to make bad personal decisions that made the news.
In 2007, CBS 3 anchor Alycia Lane became tabloid fodder after she sent bikini photos of herself to NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen. The pics were allegedly intercepted by Eisen’s wife and leaked online, but Lane’s fall from grace actually came after she was arrested for punching a female New York police officer later that year. After she was was fired from her Philly news anchor job, she sued the station and her former co-anchor. She was later scooped up by Los Angeles affiliate KNBC, and was fired again last year.
Speaking of Lane’s former co-anchor, that’d be Larry Mendte, was also fired from the Philly news station after federal authorities discovered that he hacked into Lane’s email account and leaked personal information to the media.
In a lengthy 2011 piece for Philadelphia magazine, Mendte addressed his inappropriate relationship with Lane and the lawsuit fallout: “Who knows what’s next? I could turn up on Philadelphia talk radio or a nationally syndicated TV show,” he wrote. “Maybe Tom Werner will call. Maybe I’ll finish that Broadway play. Any of those things or none of those things could happen, or something else completely unexpected could happen. If it all falls apart tomorrow — there’s always Bangalore.”
Mendte ultimately landed a commentary gig with New York’s PIX11, but was let go last year.
Local news veteran Vince DeMentri was canned from WCAU Channel 10 in 2008, after allegedly having an affair with his co-anchor. The Emmy winning news anchor — who was arrested in 2001 for impersonating an ATF agent at Ground Zero — was later accused of vandalizing Lori Delgado’s car, so he sued the station and his ex co-worker for libel and slander. Unfortunately, at his next gig at New York’s WPIX, DeMentri was fired after only three months when a UN chauffeur said he used a racial slur and slapped him, according to the New York Post.
Another WCAU NBC-10 anchor, Sharon Reed, was sent packing after allegedly harassing fellow reporter Alicia Taylor with online messages. According to Cleveland Magazine, Reed verbally admitted to police that “she was responsible for the harassment and the threats over the internet.”
While the falling out was dismissed as a “cat fight” by some, Reed made headlines in 2004 for a Cleveland news piece called “Body of Art,” in which she got naked on camera to participate in a group nude photo for a story about artist Spencer Tunick. Although some of her peers criticized the piece, Reed told African American Lifestyle Magazine, “At the end of the day, all viewers saw was my bare butt. It could have run on PBS. And that was deliberate and in keeping with Tunick’s art choice — a sea of bare butts!”
In 2011, Philadelphia meteorologist John Bolaris made headlines — and was ultimately let go from his high-profile broadcasting job — after he dished to Playboy about being drugged and duped by two European women in a “bar girl” ring. According to Philly.com, the scam story was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bolaris’s employer, Fox 29, when the controversial weatherman reportedly made inappropriate comments to the men’s magazine and shared racy cell phone photos of women with the reporter.
Bolaris was later tapped to report weather for the Howard Stern Show, but told Philadelphia magazine he’s looking to make a comeback with several weather-related pitches.
“I’ve had enough trading stocks,” he said. “That’s been keeping me afloat.”