Mansion burns, socialite steals $20 million in bogus flame claims

By James Quiggle
March 1, 2019
Hides jewelry, inflates drapery and mural invoices, threatens adjuster

Socialite and political fundraiser Claire Risoldi lived larger than life — and her bank account.

Small wonder the family matriarch also stole large. Risoldi lifted $20 million of false insurance claims after fire chewed through her family’s 5,600-foot mansion in the Philadelphia suburbs. She loaded up a pasha’s ransom of dodgy claims for jewelry, a large ceiling mural, draperies and other bling.

Risoldi’s high-flying social empire finally crash-landed. Investigators found a long trail of bloated claims that convinced a jury she needs serious jail time.

Lied fire fighters stole jewelry

Fittingly, the 10-acre family estate was called Clairemont. Risoldi held extravagant parties and fundraisers for county Republican politicos. She needed the insurance money to keep it all going.

Mysterious fires broke out at Claremont multiple times. Risoldi was never charged with arson, though she went to work with sooty fire claims.

Her biggest deception involved $10 million of supposedly stolen jewelry after the third and final fire in October 2013. Risoldi inflated insurance from $100,000 on two pieces of jewelry to more than $10 million for 55 pieces, just 3 months before that fire. She forged jewelry appraisal documents, repeatedly misspelling the word “jewelry.”

Volunteer fire fighters put their lives on the line for her home. Yet Risoldi accused them of stealing the jewelry from her home.

Then an insurance adjuster found a canvas jewelry bag hidden behind a grandfather clock in the burned dining room, and another bag in a bathtub days after the fire. The empty jewelry boxes in the bags had no soot or signs of water damage. Any fire fighter stealing the jewelry would’ve smudged the boxes with dirty gloves from the smokey interior.

“Snitches get stitches,” Claire Risoldi had her lawyer warn O’Keefe.

And what were bags with 60 boxes of jewelry doing unsecured in her home to begin with, unless she’d planted them for the claims?

Hidden at her rental home after the fire were 20 Rolex watches she’d claimed were stolen.

Inflated claims for ceiling mural

An artist earlier painted lavish ceiling murals featuring Risoldi family members for $50,000. Risoldi convinced him to inflate the cost to $950,000 with forged receipts.

She also handed the insurer 70 forged receipts for replacing wrecked draperies. The firm was called Summerdale Draperies, though Risoldi misspelled the name as “Summerdal” on many receipts.

And Risoldi claimed more than $13,000 a month for a rental home after the fire swept through Clairemont. In truth, the rental expenses were just $4,000 a month.

Insurance money tumbled into Risoldi bank accounts. Family members spent the loot on more homes, six Ferraris, two Rolls Royces, a Shelby Cobra and four other vehicles, all worth $2.8 million.

Threatens insurer adjuster

Risoldi mounted a clumsy and futile campaign of intimidation. In addition to blaming the volunteer fire fighters, she threatened to sue investigators searching her rental home for evidence. Risoldi also publicly called her insurer AIG “cruel” for cancelling her policy. She even falsely blamed the insurer for the fire. AIG should’ve better policed the electrician she’d hired to make repairs after a prior fire, she said.

Risoldi also launched a profanity-laced tirade at AIG’s insurance adjuster James O’Keefe in a parking lot. Risoldi called him a “rat bastard” and “lying sack of …” She had a mole in the Attorney General’s office, she claimed. She knew O’Keefe would get fired and planned to sue him personally, Risoldi threatened. Besides, “snitches get stitches,” she had her lawyer warn O’Keefe.

Investigators exposed Risoldi’s deception and bluster. She was convicted, thanks to dogged investigators and skilled prosecution by the state Attorney General’s office. Risoldi could serve up to 60 years in jail when sentenced. Her son Carl pleaded guilty and received four years of probation. Her husband committed suicide.

Investigators found a book on Risoldi’s desk in her rental home after the fire. It was called, “Insult to Injury: Insurance fraud and the Big Business of Bad Faith.”

“It speaks for itself,” state prosecutor Linda Montag told the jury.



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