HARRISBURG - A prominent Bucks County family law attorney and four members of her family have been
arrested and charged by the Attorney General's Office for allegedly conspiring to defraud insurance companies in excess of $20 million to live an "excessively extravagant lifestyle."
A grand jury investigation recommended criminal charges filed against former Bucks County Assistant District Attorney Carla Risoldi and three of her family members - Claire Risoldi, her husband Thomas French,her brother Carl Risoldi and his wife Sheila Risoldi. Two alleged co-conspirators, Mark Goldman, a private investigator, and Richard Holston, a fabric vendor, also are charged.
"This family and their co-conspirators stole millions to fund a lifestyle of extravagance and excess," state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a statement. "Insurance fraud drives up the cost for everyone, including seniors and middle-class families. Even worse, the scheme was facilitated through threats, intimidation and falsely accusing first responders of serious crimes."
The investigation resulted in the seizure of approximately $7 million in assets, including approximately $3 million in seized bank accounts, $1.2 million in jewelry, and six Ferraris, two Rolls Royces, one Cobra, and four other vehicles worth $2.8 million.
According to the grand jury, the investigation began after an October 2013 fire at Claire Risoldi's home in New Hope, or "Clairemont," as she referred to it. This was the third fire to occur at Clairemont in the previous five years, including one in June 2009 and another in August 2010. Risoldi lived in the home with her husband, Thomas French; her son, Carl; and daughter-in-law, Sheila.
Following each of the fires, the Risoldis filed insurance claims with their insurance carrier, which to date has paid out in excess of $20 million in claims for the three fires.
The Risoldis are also seeking $20 million more in insurance claims for the October 2013 fire, including $10 million for jewelry that the grand jury found Claire Risoldi falsely accused the volunteer firefighters, who extinguished the blaze, of stealing.
According to court documents, the official cause of each fire was "undetermined." In the case of all three fires, the grand jury found that there were large quantities of highly flammable materials stockpiled near the points of origin.
Further, video from a home security system inside Clairemont showed Claire Risoldi left the home a minute before smoke was visible outside and may have been inside while it was burning, which contradicts what she told both law enforcement and insurance representatives, Kane says.
In addition, the grand jury reviewed evidence that Kane says established that the Risoldi family had a 20-to 30-year history of filing questionable insurance claims. In one case, it was discovered in August that Claire Risoldi still possessed jewelry she claimed was stolen in 1993.
As part of their scheme, the Risoldis allegedly increased the value of jewelry covered by their insurance policy from $100,000 to nearly $11 million.
The final increase in coverage occurred a mere 25 days before the 2013 fire. Claire, Carl and Carla Risoldi facilitated the receipt of invoices inflated more than ten-fold for Romanesque murals inside Clairemont depicting the family "in flowing robes gazing down from the heavens," the grand jury says.
Claire and Carl Risoldi also allegedly misappropriated insurance money they received for living expenses and used it to engage in fraudulent real estate transactions for personal profit.
The Risoldis, with assistance and false testimony from Richard Holston, a fabric vendor, attempted to obtain $2 million for damaged window treatments at Clairemont, according to the grand jury.
Claire Risoldi waged a campaign of intimidation of witnesses, including threatening an insurance adjustor and an attorney that was involved in one of the real estate transactions, whom she also attempted to bribe to change her testimony, it is alleged.
Claire, Carla, Carl and Sheila Risoldi, along with French, Goldman and Holston, turned themselves in Thursday morning, and were arraigned and released after posting bail.