|Claire Risoldi (L) Carl Risoldi|
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Risoldis want freeze lifted on $6 million in asset
Posted: Sunday, March 1, 2015
A prominent Bucks County family has asked the county court to release more than $6 million in assets frozen at the request of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, claiming the money has nothing to do with the family’s alleged $20 million insurance fraud.
In a Feb. 23 filing, Claire Risoldi and her son, Carl, contend the attorney general has no right to freeze the assets because they are worth more than what the state can potentially prove was the result of fraud.
The Risoldis claim that only less than $750,000 can “potentially” be proven to be connected with alleged fraudulent insurance claims related to one of three fires at the family mansion, Clairemont, in Buckingham.
Claire Risoldi, 67, Carl, 43, and his wife, Sheila, 43, also from Buckingham, daughter, Carla, 48, of Solebury, 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 in connection with claims filed for three fires at Clairemont, the family’s Buckingham home and fraud allegations in a 1993 insurance claim. Thomas French, 64, Risoldi’s second husband, was among the accused but took his own life Feb. 5.
The state has additionally requested that the court freeze any financial transactions involving four properties — worth an estimated $2 million to $3 million — believed connected with the family. The AG’s office said the properties could be seized if the Risoldis are convicted and then used for criminal restitution. A hearing in Bucks County Court on the request to freeze the four properties is scheduled for late March.
The attorney general alleges that Carl and Claire used insurance payouts from AIG to purchase items unrelated to the 2013 fire, including three Buckingham properties on Danielle Drive purchased through straw buyers along with exotic and antique cars. They are also accused of inflating the value of items lost or damaged in the fire and the reconstruction costs for financial gain and falsely claiming firefighters who battled the 2013 fire at Clairemont stole $10 million in jewelry belonging to Claire Risoldi.
Through their attorneys, Carl and Claire Risoldi contend that the AG’s Office at best can show that only $600,000 to $680,000 of insurance money was potentially misappropriated, according to the court paperwork. Most of that money was paid by AIG for living expenses related to the 2013 fire. The rest was payment for two rings that the family claimed were stolen during a 1993 burglary but later discovered in the 2013 fire investigation, officials said.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching the Attorney General’s Office for comment Friday. But in an amended request filed last week involving the asset seizure, the AG claims its preliminary estimates are the properties, jewelry, vehicles and bank accounts it seeks to freeze are worth $8 to $10 million, and the potential restitution award could exceed $15 million, if the defendants are convicted. The paperwork also increased estimated insurance payouts for fire-related living expenses to more than $950,000.
AIG has paid out roughly $10 million in connection with the October 2013 fire that seriously damaged their Stony Hill Road mansion valued at $1.2 million. The family also filed another $18.4 million claim with AIG but that hasn’t been paid out and it is the subject of a civil suit the family has filed, according to court papers. AIG also paid out $9 million after fires at the home in 2010 and 2009.
“While the presentment does contain allegations that the defendant(s) made false statements in an effort to obtain additional money from AIG for structural damage and loss of contents, it is clear from the presentment that the additional funds claimed for these items have not been paid to the defendant by AIG,” according to the court filing by the Risoldis.
Both Risoldis claim in the legal documents that the attorney general is using the asset seizure to put a hardship on the family and deprive them of financial resources necessary to live, retain attorneys and finance their defense. They also claim that the actions contributed to French’s suicide.
“The tactics employed by the OAG in this case thus far demonstrate an utter disregard for justice and the truth-determining process that our court afford citizens accused of a crime,” the Risoldis claim in the filing. “This is not a game. Real people are damaged by this process as evidenced by the fact that the commonwealth’s tactics in this case drove a good and decent man with no criminal records to take his own life.”
But the AG’s office counters in its new filing that a review of expenditures of insurance proceeds has found since the 2013 fire claim, more than $450,000 has been paid for attorney representation in the matter.
In the filing, Carl Risoldi’s attorney contends that his client was never shown a search warrant for his financial accounts, and asks that the court disclose the AG’s search warrant request. After the warrants were executed, $1.4 million in financial accounts and 14 vehicles worth an estimated $1.9 million were seized, Risoldi claims. The cars seized include a 2010 Rolls Royce convertible purchased for $336,000, a 2014 Ferrari Speciale purchased for $345,000, and a 2008 Rolls Royce Phantom purchased for $230,000, according to the Risoldis’ paperwork.
Carl Risoldi also contends that the bank accounts seized do not contain any illegal funds and, therefore, shouldn’t have been frozen, according to the court documents. He added that none of the vehicles seized were the subject of an insurance claim and were not purchased with insurance proceeds.
Like the other two fires at the family’s estate, the cause of the 2013 blaze was ruled “undetermined” by a Buckingham fire marshal. The Risoldi family, however, contends the fires were accidental in origin, according to the court documents.
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’s deputy lieutenant.
The Risoldis and the other defendants in the case are free on bail. All are scheduled for a March 10 preliminary hearing.