A flamboyant Philadelphia socialite who pandered to the city’s Republican elite with extravagant fundraisers before gaining infamy for a $20 million insurance fraud has died.
Claire Risoldi, 76, known for her bouffant hairstyle, mirrored aviators and her six-bedroom estate called Clairemont, died July 14 before she could serve jail time for the grand fraud.
No information on the cause of death has been released.
Risoldi was known for looking younger than her years thanks to her penchant for heavy makeup, flashy fashion, and a face of tight but puffy skin that suggested a penchant for cosmetic surgery.
The matriarch of one of Philadelphia’s best-known families, Risoldi, was convicted in 2019 after planning a plot along with several family members to claim $20 million worth of insurance payouts after a fire at her home.
She was charged along with her late husband, Thomas French, a retired deputy sheriff who took his own life three weeks before trial and left a note saying “the pressure (had) reached its peak.”
Before his fall from grace, Risoldi was a key player in Philadelphia Republican circles, hosting glitzy Clairemont fundraisers for political candidates, complete with Cher and Mummers impersonators.
Risoldi, photographed in court in 2016, had a penchant for heavy makeup, flashy fashion and a face with taut but puffy skin that suggested a penchant for cosmetic surgery.
Claire Risoldi, 71, known for her voluminous hairstyle, mirrored aviators and her six-bedroom estate called Clairemont, died July 14 before serving jail time for grand fraud.
Risoldi spent the money from her fraud plot on luxury vehicles, including at least six Ferraris and two Rolls Royces, and even a striking hand-painted ceiling mural depicting her in classic Roman costume (pictured).
An image shows work in progress on the striking ceiling mural that Risoldi financed with fraudulent money.
Infamous Philadelphia socialite Claire Risoldi has died at the age of 76. Risoldi was famous for her extravagant appearance and for being the mastermind of multiple insurance frauds.
Risoldi’s Philadelphia mansion is shown on fire. He made millions of dollars in fraudulent insurance claims after several fires on the property.
Risoldi won over the great and good of the city with his no-nonsense personality and gregarious nature. He was so well connected that after his indictment in the fraud case, the entire Bucks County judiciary was recused from the case and a judge from another county had to be appointed.
She went to trial in March 2015 with her two adult children, her daughter-in-law, and two other people. An investigation into the family’s claims began after a 2013 fire at the stately home in Doylestown. It was the third fire in five years at the property.
After the fires, the family allegedly lived heavily on bogus insurance claims and attempted to intimidate witnesses when they learned that investigations into the payments were underway.
Risoldi also falsely accused firefighters responding to the 2013 fire of stealing $10 million worth of jewelry.
The family spent the money on luxury vehicles, including at least six Ferraris and two Rolls Royces, and even a striking hand-painted ceiling mural depicting Risoldi in classic Roman costume.
Risoldi was sentenced to between 11 1/2 and 23 months in prison, but never served any time after a series of appeals stalled the sentence. She was still locked in the legal battle when she died.
He was also ordered to pay $10.4 million in restitution. A judge later reduced the amount to $2.7 million on appeal.
The property’s roof is shown being repaired in 2015 after one of the fires that damaged it.
Risoldi’s husband, Thomas French, a retired deputy sheriff, committed suicide three weeks before his fraud trial was set to begin.
A mansion that the Risoldis rented while they repaired their house is shown.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is now the state’s governor, said after Risoldi was sentenced in May 2019: “This defendant masterminded a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme to finance her own excessive lifestyle.”
Risoldi was forced to turn over Clairemont to cover part of the restitution order and the property, set on 10 acres, sold at auction in 2019 for $750,000.
The house, which featured a pool and pool house, was renovated and later sold by a real estate company for $3 million.
Risoldi was twice widowed after her first husband, Carl P. Risoldi, once the family patriarch, also died in 2001 at age 58.
He grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and in the 1970s ran a ticketing agency promoting rock concerts.
The source of the family’s wealth is murky, but Risoldi had claimed her first husband collected disability payments and also said he made “millions” as a bricklayer.
He was also convicted in 1990 on two counts of felony mail fraud after using false medical documents to defraud an insurer out of $13,028.
Risoldi had said that he was working on a book about his life following his convictions.