67-year-old Claire Risoldi, along with several family members and others, has come under fire (literally and figuratively) for the three fires in five years at “Clairemont,” the family’s mansion located in New Hope, PA.
Prosecutors from the (democratic-led) state attorney general’s office describe Risoldi in the grand jury report as the, “matriarch of a family that lived large on the proceeds of suspicious fires — three in five years — and suddenly-missing jewelry.” And according to the Associated Press, these “proceeds” paid for drapery studded in Swarovski crystals, a ceiling mural of her family dressed in robes, Ferraris, among other expensive, luxury items.
Risoldi, who happens to have held “grand Republican fundraising soirees” in the Clairemont mansion, is claiming that the allegations are all about politics.
The accusations that stemmed from the alleged $20 million insurance fraud scheme proved to be too much for Risoldi’s husband, Thomas French, 64-year-old architect, ex-Marine and retired sheriff’s deputy, as he took his own life last month and left a suicide note denying any wrongdoing.
The note says, “I had a great life with Claire and I love her to no end. … There is no one like her. I committed no crime and I can’t bear seeing Claire … (and the others) going through this mess. I am very sad to have done this. Honestly my mental state can’t absorb any more.”
According to the Associated Press, Jack McMahon, one of several family lawyers working on the case, said French became “depressed and disillusioned about the perceived abuse of power by a government that meant so much to him.”
The last fire occurred in October of 2013, which American International Group has already paid $11 million for damages. However, Risoldi is also blaming the firefighters that responded to the home for stealing $10 million worth of jewelry.
The grand jury report also notes that Risoldi had another fire claim at a previous home that also included bizarre thefts. Furthermore, Risoldi was always the last person home before the fires occurred, and she had “highly flammable hairspray stockpiled near the point of origin.” That makes four fire claims in total.
Risoldi’s family lawyers argue that all three of the fires mentioned in the grand jury report were fully investigated and labeled accidental, all of the money would be used to rebuild and not profit from, and that Risoldi was proud of her jewelry and would not risk claiming it stolen because she wouldn’t be able to show it off in public going forward.
According to Penn Live and the Associated Press, “Risoldi, French and her two adult children, Carla (48-year-old former county prosecutor) and Carl (43-year-old state turnpike worker), were charged with racketeering, theft, insurance fraud and other crimes. Two others, including the man who said he sold Risoldi $2 million worth of draperies, are charged with fraud.”
According to the Office of the Attorney General, 48-year-old Andres Minaya and 29-year-old Jenny Minaya of Milltown, NJ were arrested last month in connection to a scam in which the husband and wife, owners of temporary staffing companies, severely under-reported the number of employees and also severely under-reported their income by $30 million to avoid paying higher premiums for workers’ compensation and higher income tax between the years of 2009 to 2013.
The Minaya’s operated under Olympus Management Services, Atlantic Personnel, and several other names. Six search warrants were executed in total to retrieve financial documents and electronic devices at five Olympus locations and at AM Professional Services, which is a tax preparation business that the couple allegedly own. In addition, the couple’s personal and corporate funds have been frozen and their home, worth $1.5 million, is being seized as well.
According to the Office of The Attorney General, “The investigation began when the case was referred to OIFP by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, which conducted an audit of Andres’ staffing company (then called Atlantis Personnel), which carried workers compensation coverage through Liberty from May 2011 through February of 2013. During the audit, Liberty allegedly found gross misrepresentations by Andres concerning the number of employees Atlantis outsourced and total employee salaries. Andres supplied federal tax returns and partial bank statements which were allegedly inconsistent with the amount of business he claimed he did in New Jersey. After the audit, Liberty adjusted the premium owed by Minaya by approximately $1 million. Minaya allegedly did not pay and instead canceled the policy and created a new company under the Olympus name. The OIFP and the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, Office of Criminal Investigation opened a joint investigation ultimately resulting in the searches and arrests.”
Andres Minaya and Jenny Minaya have both been charged with first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity. Andres has also been charged with filing a false return and second-degree insurance fraud. In addition, 34-year-old Randy Colon, the Minayas’ nephew, of Somerset, NJ has been arrested and charged with second-degree insurance fraud, as he purchased Olympus Management from his uncle purportedly as a part of the ongoing workers’ compensation scam.
The Minaya’s are facing up to 20 years in prison and a $200,000 fine (each) if proven guilty of first-degree offenses. The second-degree offenses carry sentences of a maximum of a 10-year prison term and $150,000 in fines if proven guilty.
We’re talking about rate evaders, and they’re everywhere. As we all know, rate evaders register their vehicles in another state for the purpose of lowering their auto insurance rates, while they live and operate their vehicles in areas with relatively higher premiums. The difference in premium costs according to the geographic area could range anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to actually DOUBLING the rate.
Patricia L Harman of Propertycasualty360.com gives a clear example: “For instance, a driver living in Long Beach, N.Y., would pay an average of $2,269 according to CarInsurance.com’s rate calculator. If he says he lives in Toms River, N.J., he can almost cut his rate in half where the average would be $1,169.”
What about areas within much closer proximity, as in on or around state borders? Harman notes, “For a closer comparison, drivers living in Attleboro, Mass., which is only about eight miles away from Pawtucket, R.I., would pay half as much for their insurance using the same rate calculations, $1,113 versus $2,290.”
This is where the term “phantom garaging” comes from. Drivers tell their insurance companies that their vehicles are garaged in another state entirely.
It seems obvious the rate evader trend is on the rise, and current fraud laws in New Jersey aren’t much of a deterrent, as rate evaders are not prosecuted. However, the state is considering bringing the hammer down with a bill that will stiffen consequences and help fight this crime.
According to Propertycasualty360, “Howard Goldblatt, director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee this week in favor of A2281/S 1727, telling legislators that ‘passage would send a strong message in New Jersey and throughout the nation that insurance fraud of any kind should not be tolerated.’”
Goldblatt explained that point-of-sale fraud is a growing concern in New Jersey and other states. “It is not unusual to drive through congested areas seeing autos with out-of-state license plates on the road, parked by homes and in driveways,” he told the committee.
If the bill passes, motor vehicle fraud will become a second-, third- or fourth-degree offense, which then gives the Attorney General authority to develop insurance fraud prosecution guidelines. These guidelines would then be disseminated to all county prosecutors within 180 days of the law’s effective date.
If you are looking to purchase auto insurance, all you have to do is GOOGLE IT!
And I don’t mean using Google to find links to current auto insurers websites, per say. I mean Google will be SELLING auto insurance. Seriously.
According to Insurance Journal, Google already offers auto insurance online in the United Kingdom, and will be making landfall in the United States, possibly by the end of this quarter.
An entity called “Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc.,” Google’s own online auto insurance shopper, has ALREADY been licensed to offer auto insurance in 26 states, according to Ellen Carney, Forrester Research’s blogger. The states include New Jersey, Delaware, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. That is more than HALF of the country. And more states could jump on board.
Several auto insurers are already working with Google as well, including Dairyland, MetLife, Mercury, Permanent General Assurance, Viking Insurance of Wisconsin, and Workmen’s…with the potential of many more to hop on the bandwagon.
Google may also be working with CoverHound, “which currently offers online quotes for multiple insurers including Hartford, Esurance, 21st Century, Travelers, Safeco, National General, Progressive, Foremost, Plymouth Rock and others.”
In addition, Google has formed “a partnership with the Virginia-based insurance comparison shopping site Compare.com,” according to Conor Dougherty of the New York Times Technology Blog. “Compare.com, which was launched in 2013, allows users who complete a single, simplified form to obtain comparison quotes from multiple carriers, and buy a policy online, by phone or through a local agent.”
The biggest search engine on the globe is about to shake up the insurance industry a bit.
55-year-old Robert Napolitano of Clifton, NJ, owner of Dawn to Dusk insurance adjusting company, has received a hefty prison term for his role in a fraud scheme which succeeded in defrauding the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, along with multiple insurers, out of more than $900,000.
According to Claims Journal, prosecutors discovered that Napolitano “instructed insurers whose motorists had damaged turnpike property to send checks made out to his firm, Dawn to Dusk.” Napolitano should have then forwarded the funds to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, but instead, he pocketed some (sometimes all) of the money.
How did he get away with not paying the state authority? Because he kicked back a share of each payment to former turnpike authority claims manager, Gerardo Blasi.
Napolitano is headed to federal prison for 32 months, with an additional three years of supervised release after his discharge.
Blasi plead guilty in the case last year and was sentenced to federal prison in November of 2014 for 45 months.
In April of 2008, 60-year-old Gregory Kochanowicz was duct-taped to a chair with a gun pressed to his head as he and his place of employment, a Pennsylvania liquor store, were robbed.
Kochanowicz filed for workers’ compensation benefits, according to Insurance Journal, claiming that the events that happened in April 2008 have haunted him with painful and stressful memories.
Now, almost 7 years later, Kochanowicz will receive approximately $727 a week, as the Commonwealth Court has deemed him eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Insurance Journal writes, “Is being robbed at gunpoint in a Pennsylvania state liquor store an ‘abnormal working condition’ or not?” Because attorneys for the Liquor Control Board’s insurance company do not believe that having a gun pressed to your head, being duct-taped to chairs and getting robbed are not abnormal working conditions, citing that approximately 100 state store robberies in or around Philadelphia have occurred from 2002 to 2008.
Now that the Commonwealth Court has made a decision, the Liquor Control Board still has 60 days to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.