|Claire Risoldi (L) Mark Goldman|
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Judge upholds witness intimidation charges against Risoldi; dismisses charge against PI
Posted: Friday, December 4, 2015
A judge has upheld witness-intimidation charges against Claire Risoldi, the socially prominent, politically connected Bucks County woman accused of trying to persuade a jewelry appraiser to authenticate 30-year-old appraisals that are part of a $20 million insurance fraud case.
In his Dec. 1 opinion, Judge Thomas Gavin agreed that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office presented sufficient information at a preliminary hearing last month to hold Risoldi, 68, on charges of witness intimidation and obstruction administration of law. Gavin, of Chester County, is overseeing the Risoldi trial, scheduled for February, after all Bucks County judges recused themselves due to possible conflicts of interest.
While he held Risoldi for trial on the charges, Gavin denied the AG’s request to revoke her bail.
The judge also dismissed a conspiracy charge against Risoldi, stating that Risoldi directing her private investigator Mark Goldman to speak to retired appraiser Edward Foris does not establish a “conspiratorial relationship between them, let alone an agreement to commit a criminal offense,” according to his opinion.
For a second time, Gavin also dismissed all charges — including those related to the jewelry-appraisal case — against Goldman, 55, of Wayne. The AG’s office had refiled the original criminal charges in the $20 million insurance fraud case against Goldman after the first dismissal.
“The fact that Goldman in his capacity as an investigator questioned a witness at the behest of his client … and reported the results of the interview does not make him a member of a criminal enterprise or a conspirator or inculpate him in the other crimes for which Claire and the other defendants were originally bound over,” Gavin wrote in his opinion.
The Attorney General's Office had accused Goldman and Risoldi of attempting to persuade Foris to authenticate his signature on 34 jewelry appraisals from 1983 after they and four others were charged with defrauding insurer AIG in claims related to an October 2013 fire at the family’s Buckingham estate, Clairemont. The appraisals are part of the state’s evidence in the insurance fraud case.
The documents, as well as others including blank, but signed, appraisal forms and ones with signature lines cut off, were seized in November 2014 as part of the AG’s criminal investigation.
Foris testified at a preliminary hearing last month that Goldman and Risoldi each requested him to review the typewritten appraisals that he purportedly signed for Risoldi. But after inspecting them, Foris testified that he never prepared or signed the appraisals.
He also testified that he never prepared or signed any jewelry appraisals for Risoldi or her first husband, Carl P. Risoldi. The AG’s office claims a handwriting expert determined the signatures on the appraisals were photocopies using several signature sources.
He claimed that after Goldman’s visit, Claire contacted him — first by phone, then later sending gifts of flowers and a fruit basket before showing up at his house asking him to admit that he signed the appraisals. He refused.
Through their attorneys, Risoldi and family members who are defendants in the fraud case have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in connection with the insurance claims.
In addition to the charges involving the Foris’ appraisals, 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 in connection with the insurance fraud case. 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.
Also charged in the fraud case is fabric vendor Richard Holston, 51, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey, who is accused of insurance fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @JoCiavaglia