One Year Later, Mansion Fire Still a Hot Topic

The owner of the historic state says arson was the cause of the blaze.

It was one year ago today, April 4, 2012, that fire tore through the mansion named Bloomfield on South Ithan Avenue in Villanova.

While neither police nor fire representatives have said that there were any “criminal origins” to the fire, owner Jerald S. Batoff alleges that would-be buyers Dean Topolinski and Julie Charbonneau “engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that included mail fraud, wire fraud and arson aimed at obtaining both insurance proceeds and the property itself for future real estate development, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court.

Topolinski and Charbonneau entered into an agreement to purchase the property for $5.2 million in March, 2011. But Batoff, the seller, alleges that they never planned on paying the sale price for the estate. He said the would-be buyers kept putting off the settlement date and instead asked for a long-term lease with intent to purchase.

On Nov. 13, the day before a scheduled lease signing, the lawsuit alleges that Topolinski staged a break-in at his business, DGI Services, to obtain insurance proceeds. When the lease was signed, it gave them a purported insurable interest under the option to purchase.

Batoff avers that in March 2012, in preparation for the fire, they got rid of their groundskeepers and disabled the home’s security system. He states that when the fire marshal ruled the cause of the April fire "undetermined" the couple went into action. In May 2012 Topolinski and Charbonneau filed their insurance claim and quickly received more than $1.25 million in an advance payoff.

The home is part of the what used to be the George H. McFadden estate, which used to encompass most of the block. It was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer, according to the Radnor Historical Society.

The home was last sold in 2001 to Jerald S. Batoff, of Bala Cynwyd, for $2,278,500, according to Delaware County records. Zillow lists the home as being for offered for sale at least twice in 2011 with an asking price of $6.9 million and then $5.9 million, but the house was taken off the market in October.

Bloomfield is named on Radnor Township's Historic Asset Inventory.


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Gallery: Bloomfield Fire Damage


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