Radio host faces local larceny count; Federal charges stem from Iowa

  • Martin J. Tirrell appears in a pretrial conference in Greenfield District Court on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Martin J. Tirrell, right, appears with his lawyer in a pretrial conference in Greenfield District Court on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Martin J. Tirrell, right, leaves Greenfield District Court on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Martin J. Tirrell, right, leaves Greenfield District Court on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/13/2020 10:02:36 PM
Modified: 3/13/2020 10:02:20 PM

GREENFIELD — A once-beloved local sportscaster faces a larceny charge in his home county while awaiting sentencing on federal charges stemming from allegations in his adopted home of Iowa.

Martin J. Tirrell, 60, appeared in Greenfield District Court on Friday morning for a pretrial conference pertaining to one count of larceny over $250 by false pretense. The case now moves into the discovery phase, where both sides collect facts, evaluate their case and submit motions to the court. Judge William F. Mazanec III scheduled another conference for May 7.

Tirrell and his legal representation had no comment for the Greenfield Recorder before Tirrell left the Franklin County Justice Center. Assistant District Attorney Joseph Ryan Webber is representing the state.

Tirrell was arraigned Feb. 13 and was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety. Bail was reduced to $2,500 on the condition that he reside with his sister and mother in Deerfield and remain in Massachusetts except for court and attorney appointments in Iowa.

Tirrell, who in his career branded himself as the “Mouth of the Midwest,” was arraigned on the local charge after a man told State Police that Tirrell swindled him out of $4,570 for a package of Boston Red Sox tickets in 2017. The man said he wired the money to Tirrell, who then asked for a copy of the man’s driver’s license and for more money for an additional set of seats. The man told police he Googled Tirrell’s name and found news articles about past scams. He also looked up the designated Red Sox tickets on Ace Ticket, a Boston-based ticket broker, and learned they were still for sale. He stated he realized he was being scammed and sent Tirrell an email saying he had “cold feet” about the deal.

According to emails between Tirrell and the man, Tirrell said he would return the money.

In Iowa, Tirrell faced six federal fraud charges tied to an alleged defraud scheme that milked at least eight people out of $1.5 million between September 2016 and December 2017, according to the Des Moines Register. He took a plea deal Dec. 6, 2019, and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. The Register reports his nine other counts of fraud were dismissed. Sentencing is scheduled April 7, and Tirrell could face a maximum fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release in addition to prison time, according to the Register.

Tirrell allegedly told investors he could buy sports tickets with their money, then resell them and split any profit with them. The sports radio host reportedly started by giving them back their invested money, along with profits, and VIP access to sporting events to gain their trust. He allegedly began lying to them and using their money to buy personal items or to pay back other investors. He also allegedly sent them checks he knew would bounce to provide victims with false wire transfer information.

According to the Register, Tirrell was also accused of check fraud and submitting false debit card fraud claims to get cash. The Register reports he sent four bad checks totaling $355,522 to Burlington, Iowa, and used an investor’s American Express credit card to get more than $1,000.

Court records show he deposited into his bank account a check for more than $13,800 after having previously deposited the check somewhere else, according to the Register. He was also accused of submitting seven false fraud claims related to his debit card in late 2016.

The Register reports online Iowa court records indicated at least 24 small claims and other civil actions against Tirrell, who was charged with felony theft in 2017 in connection with not paying for a flight he took with eight friends to the final game of the World Series the previous fall. The charge was dropped after Tirrell paid the bill.

Tirrell’s two ex-wifes — Margaret “Bunny” Doneilo, of Greenfield, and Stephanie Gifford, of Iowa — say Tirrell’s lies and deceit ruined their lives and cost them their homes to foreclosure.

Doneilo said she was married to Tirrell from 1993 until their divorce in 2008, though she said Tirrell walked out on the marriage in 2007.

“What he took from me will never be resolved,” she told the Greenfield Recorder, adding that she lost her retirement savings. “He destroyed a lot of people, financially and emotionally.

“This is something that doesn’t go away. It never goes away — and I wish it would,” she continued, adding that Tirrell also betrayed his two stepchildren. “He not only hurt me, he hurt them.”

Gifford said she was married to Tirrell from 2010 to 2015 and they have an 8-year-old daughter together. She said most of Tirrell’s problems started with massive gambling debt, and that the $1.5 million mentioned in court documents is “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“He’s robbed Peter to pay Paul ever since I’ve known him,” she said.

Gifford claims Tirrell used her 401(k) to save a business he had started, ran up credit card debt in her name, used her Social Security without her consent or knowledge, and forged 50 checks in her name.

“He knows exactly what he’s doing when he manipulates people,” she said. “He’s a pro.”

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