|By John P. Martin, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
More than seven months after his historic Main Line home, a 24,000-square-foot estate designed by
According to the complaint, filed late last week, the plot hatched by
String Batoff along with a
Dismiss the groundskeepers and secretly disable the security system and surveillance cameras. Start a fire in the basement corner near the circuit breaker, one sure to engulf the rest of the mansion. Then wait a few months and stake their ownership claim.
The alleged payoff: more than
Batoff alleges Topolinski and Charbonneau, an interior designer and self-proclaimed
A lawyer for the couple said Friday that neither they nor he would address the allegations.
"It's a very inflammatory complaint, which we won't dignify with a response," said the lawyer,
The claim is the latest salvo in a tortured battle over who will get the millions of dollars left in the ashes of the famed 19-bedroom, 15-bathroom estate dubbed
In late October, U.S. District Judge
But the details in the document suggest an intensive behind-the-scenes private investigation in the months since
Wood said he could not rule out an electrical problem or arson, but had no conclusive evidence pointing to either. "Very honestly, I do not know what caused that fire," he said in an interview Saturday.
Batoff claims to have enlisted arson experts who concluded that was part of the ruse. They said someone detached wires from a basement circuit breaker, then used a blowtorch or a similar tool to make it appear as if detached wires sparked there.
Batoff contends that Topolinski and Charbonneau were the only ones with access, motive, and opportunity to torch the place.
The couple emerged as potential buyers in