Claire Risoldi wore a sparkly knit cap inside a Doylestown courtroom Wednesday, her straw-blond hair spilling onto her shoulders, a pair of rainbow-tinted aviator sunglasses hanging from the collar.
The 71-year-old Bucks County socialite sat alongside her attorney, Jack McMahon, inside the Justice Center as testimony began in the trial in which she is accused of defrauding a major insurance company of $20 million.
Risoldi, known for throwing lavish fund-raisers for county Republicans, was first charged in 2014, and is standing trial on charges of insurance fraud, forgery, receiving stolen property, and witness intimidation.
Linda Montag, Pennsylvania senior deputy attorney general, sought to make the case to jurors that Risoldi and her family conspired to dupe insurers after three fires at the family’s 10-acre New Hope estate, Clairemont, since 2009.
The goal, prosecutors say, was to fund an increasingly luxurious lifestyle.
Risoldi and McMahon have said that the insurance claims are legitimate, and that the insurance company is unwilling to pay.
Jim O’Keefe, an AIG insurance adjuster, was the first to take the stand Wednesday. He testified that Risoldi and family members expanded and increased coverage on more than 50 pieces of jewelry weeks before the third fire, in 2013. And he said that after the fire, her family claimed that firefighters stole the jewelry that had just been insured.
“We went from two articles being insured to 55 articles being insured over the course of about a three-month period in 2013,” O’Keefe said. “We questioned why that had occurred, and, if they owned all of this jewelry since 1965, why were they just insuring it now?”
In her insurance claims, prosecutors allege, Risoldi forged appraisal documents, which include many misspellings of the word jewelry, in her attempt to swindle insurers.
The courthouse usually doesn’t allow any visitor to wear a hat in a courtroom, but Risoldi said this week that she received special permission from Judge Thomas Gavin to wear one for a medical condition.
After the first recess of the day, as she walked out of the courtroom, Risoldi said, “It’s so boring.”