Two South Georgians filed separate lawsuits accusing the Lee County Sheriff, three deputies, and the County Commission of violating their civil rights.
Rosetta Bateman of Sumter County filed suit in Albany Federal Court, while Lovice Powell of Terrell County filed suit in Lee Superior Court.
They claim that in February 2013 Lee County deputies seized $15,000 from them during a traffic stop and did not return it, even though they were never charged with a crime.
Their attorney, Jim Finkelstein of Albany, says law enforcers are using drug interdiction laws as cash grabs.
“Not for the purpose of stopping drugs or stopping drug dealers, but for seeing how much money they can garner for local law enforcement or local governments. And partially the Drug Enforcement Administration,” Finkelstein said.
The plaintiffs claim they had to file expensive federal lawsuits against the DEA to get their money back.
The lawsuits ask for $6 million dollars each in damages for violations of their civil rights.
Claire Risoldi; her son, Carl; his wife, Shelia; and Claire’s daughter, Carla, are charged with more than a dozen felonies for allegedly filing false insurance claims. The scheme was to live an “excessively extravagant lifestyle. This included lavish parties attended by many political members and hopefuls,” according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The AG’s office said false claims for three fires in five years at the mansion totaled $20 million. In court, the Lahaska fire chief said the 2013 fire and a 2010 fire both started in the attic and within 12 feet of each other. He also said cartons of aerosol-based hairspray were close by. The defense pointed out those fires and another fire in 2009 weren’t ruled arson and that Claire Risoldi is an avid user of hairspray. The grand jury also recommended criminal charges against two alleged co-conspirators: private detective Mark Goldman and fabric vendor Richard Holston. Aside from perhaps public embarrassment, the case has also turned tragic. Claire Risoldi’s husband, Thomas French, who was also charged, killed himself on Feb. 5. Copyright 2015 WFMZ. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.