Bucks County Patriarch Accused in $20M Bogus Fire Insurance Claims Kills Self: Sources | NBC 10 Philadelphia

Bucks County Patriarch Accused in $20M Bogus Fire Insurance Claims Kills Self: Sources



    Thomas French was married to the matriarch of the Risoldi family that is accused of an elaborate scheme involving multiple fake fire insurance claims at the family's Bucks County mansion. (Published Friday, Feb. 6, 2015)

    A Pennsylvania man, accused along with his wife and family members in a more than $20-million insurance scheme, committed suicide in front of one of the family's homes, multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation told NBC10.

    Thomas French shot himself in front of a Risoldi family home along Danielle Drive in Buckingham, Pennsylvania Thursday afternoon, said sources.

    After the shooting, police could be seen towing a vehicle from the scene.

    French, who was 64, was married to Claire Risoldi, the family matriarch at the center of an arson scheme.

    Bucks County Family Funded 'Extravagant Lifestyle' Through $20M in Bogus Fire Insurance Claims: DA

    [PHI] Bucks County Family Funded 'Extravagant Lifestyle' Through $20M in Bogus Fire Insurance Claims: DA
    A Bucks County family of five and two others are facing charges after investigators say they defrauded insurance companies out of millions of dollars. NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez has the story. (Published Friday, Jan. 23, 2015)

    Risoldi's family set fires in their matriarch's home so they could collect more than $20 million in insurance claims, then used the cash float an "excessively extravagant lifestyle" marked by $1.2 million in jewelry and six Ferraris, according to charges announced last month by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

    Claire Risoldi, four members of her Bucks County family and two alleged co-conspirators were hit with several fraud charges after a more than year long statewide investigation.

    Fire spread through the Risoldis' New Hope home, named "Clairemont" by the woman, three times between June 2009 and October 2013. According to prosecutors, each fire started near a stockpile of highly flammable materials, including hair spray, and the cause was ruled undetermined.

    In one case, home surveillance video captured Risoldi leaving the house a minute before smoke appeared and may have been inside when the home was burning, prosecutors said.

    The family then would collect insurance money for lost jewelry, art and home treatments.

    The attorney general said the family inflated the price tenfold of Romanesque paintings that were destroyed by fire, depicting the Risoldis wearing "flowing robes gazing down from the heavens." They also attempted to file a $2 million claim for damaged window treatments.

    Risoldi accused firefighters of stealing more than $10 million in jewelry from "Clairemont" while fighting one of the blazes, Kane said.

    "I knew my guys didn't take anything out of the house, but we were accused," said Midway Volunteer Fire Company Chief Hugh Hager.

    After collecting the insurance money, the family allegedly used the cash to carry out real estate transactions, buy expensive cars and fund their lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said. More than $7 million in assets seized by the state included $3 million from bank accounts, $1.2 million in jewelry, six Ferraris, two Rolls Royces and a Shelby Cobra.

    The grand jury investigation found Risoldi increased coverage for her jewelry from $100,000 to nearly $11 million less than a month before the last fire in October 2013. Kane said jurors also found a pattern of questionable insurance claims by Risoldi spanning some 30 years. In one example, investigators found jewelry the woman said she lost in 1993.

    In addition to Claire Risoldi, prosecutors charged French; her 43-year-old son, Carl Risoldi; 43-year-old daughter-in-law, Shiela Risoldi; and 48-year-old daughter Carla Risoldi.

    Two other men, private investigator Mark Goldman and fabric vendor Richard Holston, were also charged in the scheme.

    All seven suspects remained free on bail.

    SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you know someone who needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).