Saturday, February 27, 2016

Records: Risoldis, Morris failed to pay 2015 property taxes on homes

Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Clairemont



More than $51,000 in real estate taxes is owed on five properties that county records say are owned by -- or state officials say are associated with -- a prominent Bucks County family awaiting trial in a $20 million insurance fraud case.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office obtained temporary restraining orders last year under the civil asset forfeiture law for four properties that it believes are directly or indirectly owned by the Risoldi family. The state obtained the order since the properties could be sold for restitution if members of the Risoldi family are convicted in trials involving alleged fraud stemming from insurance claims related to fires at the family’s Buckingham estate, Clairemont.

The estate has been the setting for Republican fundraisers that brought matriarch Claire Risoldi and her adult children prominence in local political and social circles.
The restraining order legally prohibits the owners from selling, mortgaging or otherwise altering the properties, which the state estimates are collectively worth an estimated $3 million. The state estimates the potential restitution to insurer AIG could be more than $15 million, according to court documents.
4800 Bl Danielle Drice
The restraining order is against Clairemont and three properties on Danielle Drive in Buckingham. They include two owned by Karl Morris but occupied by Claire Risoldi and her son Carl A. Risoldi and his family, according to the attorney general's office. Morris isn't facing charges in the fraud case.
The attorney general's office alleges in court documents that Claire Risoldi gave Morris, a Lower Makefield resident who's a friend of Carl A. Risoldi, the money to buy two homes, in the 4800 and 4900 blocks of Danielle Drive. The documents don't specify why the state believes Risoldi had Morris use Claire Risoldi's money to buy the properties.
In court documents, the state attorney general alleges AIG paid more than $600,000 for additional living expenses to the Risoldis after they “falsely led them (AIG) to believe” that most of the money the insurer provided for living expenses was used to rent two homes for the Risoldis while Clairemont was under reconstruction following the most recent fire, in 2013.
The state has accused Claire Risoldi, 68, son Carl, 44, daughter Carla, 49, Carl’s wife, Sheila, 44, with falsifying and inflating the value of items lost or damaged in an Oct. 22, 2013, fire at the family's Clairemont estate. Claire Risoldi also is accused of engaging in fraud related to previous insurance claims and faces charges of witness intimidation and obstruction of justice in the fraud case.
4900 Bl Danielle Drive
Through their attorneys, the family has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the state’s fraud case. The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching attorneys representing the Risoldis to discuss the delinquent taxes.
Jake Griffin, the attorney representing Morris, declined comment. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office declined comment on the properties' delinquent taxes.
County and court records show the following tax delinquencies on the four homes with restraining orders:
  • Carl and Carla Risoldi owe $19,248.05 on Clairemont, in the 5700 block of Stony Hill Road.
  • A total of $7,512.14 is owed on a house in the 4800 block of Danielle Drive that was purchased by Gemini Capital Limited Group LLC in September 2014. Settlement documents show Carl A. Risoldi bought the property, according to the AG’s office.
  • Morris owes taxes of $8,753.02 on another home in the 4800 block of Danielle Drive.
  • Morris owes taxes of $9,719.05 on a home in the 4900 block of Danielle Drive.
    4800 Bl Danielle Drive
The only one not covered by the AG's restraining order is a home in the 400 block of Prospect Street in Morrisville. Carl Risoldi owes $5,919.45 on that, which he co-owned with the late Thomas French, who was Claire Risoldi’s second husband.
AG spokesman Jeffery Johnson said his office’s interpretation of the seizure law is that the property owner remains responsible for taxes and maintenance on a seized property until the forfeiture process and appeals are exhausted.
Between 8,000 and 9,000 property owners a year -- about 10 percent of the county’s property owners -- fail to pay their property taxes on time each year, according Marguerite Genesio, director of the Bucks County Tax Claim Bureau. The bureau collects delinquent real estate taxes and eventually sells the properties of tax delinquents, with the proceeds going to county government.
In April, the bureau mails formal notification of property liens to delinquent owners, Genesio said. Owners have as long as 18 months to pay their delinquent taxes in full, plus interest and fees, she said. That means owners who failed to pay taxes in 2015 have until June 30, 2017, to pay, unless the owner continues to make timely payments based on an agreement with the county. If the taxes aren't fully paid or the owner doesn't comply with the agreement, the county initiates the tax lien sale process.
North  Prospect Ave. Morrisville
In the meantime, the government can take steps to preserve the property if the owner doesn’t maintain it and there is a “substantial probability” the government will prevail in a civil forfeiture action, according to University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Louis Rulli, director of clinical programs there. Those steps could include a contempt of court charge or appointing a custodian to preserve the property, he said.
“In short, the government is not powerless to act if the restraining order is simply not enough to protect and preserve the property that is subject to forfeiture,” Rulli said.

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