Pennsylvania

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

A Pennsylvania 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 Thursday 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 on Thursday 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 hairspray, 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.

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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 her husband, 64-year-old Thomas 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 turned themselves in to prosecutors on Thursday morning and are out on bail.

"It was like a weight lifted off our shoulders," said Hager.

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