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Bucks County family accused of using massive insurance fraud scheme to finance life of luxury

February 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Blog

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on Jan. 22 announced the arrest of Claire Risoldi of Buckingham Township and four members of her family who allegedly conspired to defraud insurance companies in excess of $20 million to live an “excessively extravagant lifestyle.” Two co-conspirators, Mark Goldman, a private investigator; and Richard Holston, a fabric vendor; also are charged.

The basis of the charges is evidence obtained by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) and presented to a statewide investigating Grand Jury.

“This family and their co-conspirators stole millions to fund a lifestyle of extravagance and excess,” Attorney General Kane said. “Insurance fraud drives up the cost for everyone, including seniors and middle-class families. Even worse, the scheme was facilitated through threats, intimidation and falsely accusing first responders of serious crimes.”

The investigation resulted in the seizure of approximately $7 million in assets, which the Attorney General called “fruits of the crimes” that could be used for restitution upon conviction. The assets included approximately $3 million in seized bank accounts, $1.2 million in jewelry, and six Ferraris, two Rolls Royces, one Cobra, and four other vehicles worth $2.8 million.

According to the Grand Jury presentment, the investigation began after an October 2013 fire at Claire Risoldi’s home in Buckingham Township, or “Clairemont,” as she referred to it. This was the third fire to occur at Clairemont in the past five years, including one in June 2009 and another in August 2010. Risoldi lived in the home with her husband, Thomas French; her son, Carl; and daughter-in-law, Sheila.

Following each of the fires, the Risoldis filed insurance claims with their insurance carrier, which to date has paid out in excess of $20 million in claims for the three fires.

The Risoldis are also seeking $20 million more in insurance claims for the October 2013 fire, including $10 million for jewelry that the Grand Jury found Claire Risoldi falsely accused the volunteer firefighters, who extinguished the blaze, of stealing.

The official cause of each fire was “undetermined,” which could include that the fires may not be accidental. In the case of all three fires, the Grand Jury found that there were large quantities of highly flammable materials stockpiled near the points of origin, according to the presentment.

Further, video from a home security system inside Clairemont showed Claire Risoldi left the home a minute before smoke was visible outside and may have been inside while it was burning, which contradicts what she told both law enforcement and insurance representatives.

In addition, the Grand Jury reviewed evidence that established that the Risoldi family had a 20-to 30-year history of filing questionable insurance claims. In one case, it was discovered in August 2014 that Claire Risoldi still possessed jewelry she claimed was stolen in 1993.

Further instances of alleged fraud and other crimes uncovered by the Grand Jury are detailed extensively in the presentment:

As part of their scheme, the Risoldis progressively increased the value of jewelry covered by their insurance policy from $100,000 to nearly $11 million. The final increase in coverage occurred a mere 25 days before the 2013 fire.

Claire, Carl and Carla Risoldi facilitated the receipt of invoices inflated more than ten-fold for Romanesque murals inside Clairemont depicting the family “in flowing robes gazing down from the heavens.”

Claire and Carl Risoldi misappropriated insurance money they received for living expenses and used it to engage in fraudulent real estate transactions for personal profit.

The Risoldis, with assistance and false testimony from Richard Holston, a fabric vendor, attempted to obtain $2 million for damaged window treatments at Clairemont.

Claire Risoldi waged a campaign of intimidation of witnesses, including threatening an insurance adjustor and an attorney that was involved in one of the real estate transactions, whom she also attempted to bribe to change her testimony.

Attorney General Kane thanked the Philadelphia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assisting with the investigation.

Claire, Carla, Carl and Sheila Risoldi, along with French, Goldman and Holston, turned themselves in this morning, and were arraigned and released after posting bail.

The case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General David Augenbraun of the Insurance Fraud Section and Senior Deputy Attorney General John Flannery of the Criminal Prosecutions Section.

They are facing the following charges:

Claire A. Risoldi, 67, Doylestown, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, attempted theft by deception, receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility, false reports to law enforcement and insurance fraud; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and theft by deception; and three counts of forgery.

Carl A. Risoldi, 43, of Doylestown, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility and false reports to law enforcement; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and insurance fraud; and three counts of forgery.

Carla V. Risoldi, 48, of Doylestown, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility and false reports to law enforcement; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and insurance fraud; and three counts of forgery.

Sheila M. Risoldi, 43, of Doylestown, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility and false reports to law enforcement; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, insurance fraud and attempted theft by deception; and three counts of forgery.

Thomas J. French, 64, of Doylestown, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility, false reports to law enforcement and insurance fraud; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and insurance fraud; and three counts of forgery.

Mark Goldman, 54, Wayne, Chester County, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, theft by deception, attempted theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft by deception, intimidation of witnesses or victims, obstructing the administration of law, tampering with public records, criminal use of a communication facility and false reports to law enforcement; two counts each of: dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and insurance fraud; and three counts of forgery.

Richard Holston, 51, Medford, New Jersey, is charged with one count each of: corrupt organizations, insurance fraud, obstructing the administration of law, theft by deception and perjury.

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