|Claire Risoldi (L) Mark Goldman|
Thursday, October 15, 2015
AG: Risoldi, investigator tried to intimidate jewelry appraiser
Posted: Friday, October 9, 2015
Claire Risoldi, the matriarch of a wealthy, politically connected Bucks County family who's awaiting trial in an alleged $20 million insurance fraud, faces new charges that say she attempted to persuade a jewelry appraiser to lie.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office on Friday filed charges that say Risoldi, 68, of Buckingham, and family private investigator Mark Goldman, 55, of Wayne, unsuccessfully tried to get the appraiser involved in a scheme to pass off altered documents for insurance purposes. The allegations say the two visited the appraiser earlier this year before Risoldi, three members of her immediate family and Goldman were brought before a preliminary hearing on fraud charges stemming from three fires at the family's Buckingham estate, Clairemont.
In a criminal complaint, the state alleges Goldman and later Risoldi each tried to convince appraiser Edward Foris to confirm that he had prepared and signed 34 typewritten jewelry appraisals from Fairless Hills Auction Inc., where Foris had worked. The appraisals, which purportedly bear Foris’ signature, were submitted to the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies in support of a 1984 jewelry claim submitted by the Risoldi family, the state alleges. The family maintained the jewelry was stolen in a November 1984 home burglary when they were living in Lower Makefield. Those same appraisals were later admitted as evidence during a preliminary hearing this past spring for the Risoldi defendants and Goldman, who are charged with defrauding insurer AIG for claims paid on an October 2013 fire at Clairemont.
The evidence presented over the seven-day hearing "established that the appraisals had been altered before they were submitted to Chubb," the state said in its criminal complaint. "Specifically, the values of the individual pieces of jewelry had been whited-out and typed over," and "the appraisals had been photocopied to render the alteration undetectable," the complaint alleges. The photocopied forms were ultimately submitted for reimbursement to Chubb, which paid the claim.
The criminal complaint also says:
Foris on Oct. 1 told state investigators that he was visited by Goldman sometime this past spring and that the private investigator presented him with multiple typewritten appraisal forms for jewelry that Foris purportedly appraised for Claire Risoldi in 1983. Goldman asked Foris to confirm that he had prepared and signed the appraisal forms.
But after examining the documents, Foris told Goldman he didn’t prepare them. He said his appraisals were always handwritten. Also, he said he never affixed his signature to a typewritten appraisal.
Foris also told Goldman the signatures at the bottom of the form were similar to his, but that he didn’t sign them, and that the signatures appeared to be photocopies.
Additionally, Foris also told Goldman he wouldn’t lie about the appraisals, state authorities allege.
Goldman, however, became “very insistent” that Foris confirm he prepared and signed the appraisal forms, the complaint says. The private investigator reportedly tried to confuse Foris, claiming that he had gone to "Claire’s law office," where a secretary typed the appraisals and he signed them, court documents allege. No, that never happened, Foris allegedly told Goldman.
The day after Goldman visited him, Foris said he received a bouquet of flowers and a fruit basket with cards showing they were sent by Claire Risoldi, the state said in its complaint.
Around the same time, Foris told investigators that he received multiple calls from a woman identifying herself as “Claire Risoldi.” The woman insisted that Foris “help her out” and “do something for her” because she was in “serious trouble” and needed Foris to say he had signed the appraisals from the Fairless Hills agency where he had worked, the complaint said.
Again, Foris said he told Claire Risoldi he would not lie.
Foris also alleged that a woman matching Claire Risoldi’s physical description came to his home in Trenton “begging” him to identify the appraisals as signed by him. Again, he told her he would not lie, authorities said.
Additionally, Foris told authorities that the appraisal forms that Goldman and the attorney general investigators showed him not only did not contain his signature, but they were done in an incorrect format. All jewelry appraisals that he would have prepared and signed were written on appraisal forms with the header “Thomas Freitag Marketing” not “Fairless Hills Auctions,” according to the complaint.
Risoldi was arraigned Friday before District Judge Mark Douple on charges that include witness intimidation, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of the administration of law. She was released on $500,000 unsecured bail.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Risoldi’s attorney Jack McMahon at his office or on his cellphone Friday.
Through their attorneys, the Risoldi family defendants have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in connection with the insurance claims, and the family has filed a federal civil suit against AIG in connection with $10 million in missing jewelry in the 2013 fire, a claim the insurer has denied. The Risoldis originally accused firefighters of stealing the missing jewelry, but a police investigation found no evidence to support the allegation.
Goldman on Friday was arraigned before Douple on charges that include witness intimidation, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of the administration of law. He was released on $250,000 unsecured bail.
Also Friday, the attorney general refiled its original charges against Goldman, including insurance fraud, conspiracy, theft, and forgery in connection with the attorney general's insurance fraud case regarding the Clairemont estate. Last month, Chester County Judge Thomas Gavin, who is overseeing the Risoldi trial in Bucks County because all of the county's judges have recused themselves, dismissed the charges against Goldman, arguing that a district judge improperly held Goldman for trial.
Claire Risoldi faces 21 criminal counts, including theft by deception, corrupt organizations, false insurance claims, receiving stolen property, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and forgery.
Also charged in the insurance fraud case are Claire’s son, Carl A. Risoldi, 44; Carl's wife, Sheila, 44, both of Buckingham, and daughter Carla V. Risoldi, 49, of Solebury. They face felonies that include corrupt organizations and insurance fraud.
Fabric vendor Richard Holston, 51, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey, is also awaiting trial on charges of insurance fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury in the alleged scheme to defraud AIG.
The trial for the Risoldi family and Holston is scheduled to take place in November.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jociavaglia