Family accused of $20M fraud amid mansion fires, theft claim

AP News
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Posted: Jan 22, 2015 6:00 PM
Family accused of $20M fraud amid mansion fires, theft claim

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A family's luxurious suburban lifestyle has been financed by more than $20 million in fraudulent insurance claims amid a series of mansion fires and repeated reports of jewelry theft, authorities said Thursday.

An investigation began after a 2013 fire at the stately home Claire Risoldi shared with relatives in Doylestown, an hour's drive north of Philadelphia. It was the third blaze in five years at the property, which she dubbed Clairemont, authorities said.

Risoldi had falsely accused volunteer firefighters of stealing 55 pieces of jewelry worth more than $10 million while battling the flames, according to a grand jury presentment. The family's jewelry collection had included two items valued at $106,000 only four months earlier, officials said.

Authorities said the ensuing probe uncovered a decades-long pattern of questionable insurance claims by Risoldi. She still possessed jewelry she reported stolen in 1993, according to investigators. She had reported another jewelry theft from a different home in 1984 and a house fire in 1977.

As a result of the investigation, authorities seized about $7 million in family assets, including $3 million in bank accounts, $1.2 million in jewelry, six Ferraris and two Rolls-Royces.

The state attorney general's office charged Risoldi, 67, with counts including conspiracy, attempted theft by deception, witness intimidation and forgery. Six other people, including her husband, two children and daughter-in-law, also face charges.

Risoldi, who is free after posting bail, isn't living at the Doylestown home and couldn't be located for comment Thursday. Her daughter's lawyer had no comment.

Officials haven't determined the causes of the Doylestown fires, but they said large amounts of highly flammable material had been placed near the origin of each blaze. Video from the home's security system in 2013 showed Risoldi leaving a minute before smoke was visible outside the house, authorities said.

An insurance company has paid out more than $20 million for the three fires but is fighting the most recent jewelry claim. Physical evidence "proved that the jewelry could not have possibly been stolen in the manner described by the Risoldis," the grand jury presentment said.