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Saturday, February 21, 2015
AG order seeks to freeze four properties in Risoldi fraud case
Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2015
“Horrible” is how Claire Risoldi described the 3,500-square-foot rental home she moved to after a 2013 fire damaged her family’s mansion, according to her complaint to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
Yet three months after she complained, Risoldi allegedly wrote a $300,000 check toward the purchase of the same four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath Colonial. That check was drawn from an account containing insurance proceeds designated to cover temporary living expenses as a result of the fire.
Such details are documented as part of a Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office petition to prevent her and members of the prominent family who are accused in a massive insurance fraud from selling or transferring four Buckingham properties, including three allegedly bought through third parties.
The three "third-party" properties are on Danielle Drive, and the Risoldi family's mansion is on Stony Hill Road and called Clairemont — the centerpiece of what authorities say is a $20 million insurance fraud.
The state has already seized $7 million in family assets related to its criminal investigation, including $3 million from bank accounts and $1.2 million in jewelry.
Claire Risoldi, 67, her son, Carl, 43, daughter, Carla, 48, Carl’s wife, Sheila, 43, and family associates Marc Goldman, 54, and Richard Holston, 51, are accused of more than a dozen felonies, including corrupt organizations, filing false insurance claims, and theft by deception related to three fires at Clairemont in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Thomas French, 64, Risoldi’s second husband, was among the accused, but he took his own life on Feb. 5.
Described as a temporary restraining order in the court docket, the attorney general's petition seeks to preserve the four properties because they would be assets subjected to "criminal restitution" should the Risoldi defendants be convicted of fraud. The family, however, could have the properties released to them if they execute a $15 million performance bond, according to the petition. A hearing on the state's request is scheduled for next month in Bucks County Court.
The newspaper was unsuccessful Friday in reaching attorney Judson Aaron, who is listed in the court filing as representing Claire Risoldi. Attorney Jake Griffin, who is representing Karl Morris, the owner of record for two of the Danielle Drive properties, declined comment.
In its Jan. 26 petition, the Attorney General's Office contends the property freeze is necessary because the family has allegedly hidden assets because of the state's criminal investigation. The state cites the family’s ability to post their bails in cash, and alleges the Risoldis started hiding vehicles and other “movable assets” since learning they were under investigation for insurance fraud.
Investigators traced the alleged trail of fraud using checks written by family members and drawn from a TD Bank account to which insurer AIG had deposited payouts related to the October 2013 fire, as well as ancillary TD Bank accounts belonging to the family, the agency said in its petition. The TD Bank account was in the names of Claire, Carl and Carla Risoldi; Carl and Carla jointly own Clairemont and the AIG insurance policy for the home was held in the names of Carl and Sheila Risoldi, investigators said.
The insurance money was supposed to be spent on temporary living expenses, such as rent, replacing items lost or damaged in the fire and repairs to Clairemont. But the attorney general has accused the family of misusing more than $1 million of the insurance money to buy the homes on Danielle Drive last year.
Claire Risoldi and her late husband lived in one of the homes on Danielle Drive; Carl Risoldi and his family live in another. And AIG has paid the $13,000 monthly rent on each of the homes, according to court records.
But bank records show that Claire Risoldi wrote at least one check drawn on the TD Bank account where the insurance funds were deposited to purchase the Danielle Drive home she was renting from family friend and Doylestown attorney Tina Mazaheri, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Mazaheri is not charged with wrongdoing.
The state’s restraining order petition alleges that in March, Claire Risoldi wrote a check for $105,000 to Mazaheri on the same day that Mazaheri signed a deed transferring her interest in the property to Karl Morris — the home's current owner of record. Mazaheri subsequently took back the mortgage from Morris, the petition said.
But the AG's office alleges the mortgage was guaranteed by a separate and unrecorded document executed between Claire Risoldi and Mazaheri for $400,000, according to the petition, which the attorney general says is evidence that Risoldi — not Morris — is the buyer.
Morris, too, is not charged with wrongdoing.
Danielle Drive home of Claire Risoldi
Days after the mortgage documents between Mazaheri and Morris were executed, the attorney general alleges, Claire Risoldi provided AIG with a 36-month lease agreement in which she purported to rent the property from Morris for $13,000 a month. The Morris lease was backdated to November 2013, but state investigators discovered Risoldi wrote Mazaheri a check in November 2013 — drawn on the AIG/TD bank account — for $4,000 to cover the monthly rent.
Mazaheri testified before a state grand jury that she charged Risoldi $4,000 a month in rent for the home, before Risoldi orchestrated its purchase, according to court documents.
In July, three months after filing her complaint with the state Insurance Department about the “horrible” rental, Claire Risoldi wrote a $300,000 check drawn on the same AIG/TD Bank account toward the purchase of the same Danielle Drive house, court records show. Mazaheri told investigators that Risoldi still owes her $100,000 for the sale, according to the grand jury’s report.
That same month, the Attorney General’s Office alleges, Claire Risoldi purchased another property in the 4800 block of Danielle Drive — where Carl Risoldi and his family now live — using Morris again as a straw buyer. The petition alleges that the $586,349 purchase was made using a TD Bank check drawn on another account, and witnesses testified that the Risoldis provided Morris the money.
The third Danielle Drive property — also in the 4800 block — was purchased for $558,890 by Gemini Capital Limited Group LLC and a deed transferred to the property in September, according to the petition. A review of settlement documents involving the transaction show the property was purchased using a TD Bank check drawn on another account and it contained the reference “Re: Carl A. Risoldi,” the state's petition said.
“Additionally, it is evident that Carl Risoldi executed all documents on behalf of Gemini Capital Limited Group LLC and witnesses and agents have observed that the defendants maintain exclusive possession and control over this property,” according to the petition.
Danielle Drive home of Carl & Shelia Risoldi
The AG's office believes the suspected home purchases on Danielle Drive are significant to their request for a property freeze because they illustrate a "history of fraudulent transfers and is indicative of the defendant's continued ability to secrete assets," according to the restraining order petition.
If the court grants the property freeze, it would not affect other family owned real estate holdings, including three law offices and a Solebury home owned by Carla Risoldi or a Falls home that is jointly owned by Carl Risoldi and French. The petition also states that the Risoldis can continue to live in the Danielle Drive homes.
The Risoldis are considered among the most prominent in Bucks County social and political circles.
Claire Risoldi is well known among the county’s Republican Party for her fundraising and lavish parties for GOP politicians and other causes she supports. Carla Risoldi is a criminal defense attorney and former Bucks County prosecutor. Carl Risoldi worked as a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission from 2005 until Jan. 23, when he was suspended without his $74,000 a year pay or benefits. French, who married Claire Risoldi in 2013, was a retired Bucks County sheriff deputy lieutenant.