Wealthy MN couple charged with welfare fraud
( From ABC News )
A Minnesota couple who allegedly claim to be Scottish aristocrats are on the run, accused of claiming public assistance benefits
while living on their $1.2 million yacht and driving a $30,000 Lexus. Andrea Chisholm, 54, and Colin Chisholm III, 62, allegedly collected more than $167,000 in welfare, food stamps and medical assistance across two states over a period of around seven years, according to a complaint filed with a Minnesota State court.
For the past month, Hennepin County Sheriff's department has been searching for the couple who are still at large, according to a statement issued by the Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman.
The Chisholms began claiming public assistance in Minnesota in 2005 after telling authorities they were living with Andrea's mother in Minneapolis. Just weeks after the pair applied for assistance, they also bought an 83-foot yacht for $1.2 million in Florida, which they lived on for 28 months, according to the complaint. They were also claiming benefits in Florida at the same time as they were collecting money in Minnesota, the complaint said.
The couple also allegedly failed to report the nearly $3 million they had deposited in various bank accounts "to support their lavish lifestyle," and concealed that they had lived in luxury lakeside homes in Deephaven since 2008 when they moved back to Minnesota, the complaint said. During this time, the pair continued to receive welfare benefits and medical assistance from the state, including the prenatal care Andrea Chisholm received while pregnant in 2006 and 2007, the complaint said.
"Colin Chisholm portrays himself as a Scottish aristocrat who is a wealthy and successful executive in the broadcasting industry," criminal investigator Amanda Lange writes in the complaint.
Colin Chisholm was self-employed as the chief executive officer of TCN Network, which purported to be a satellite television and broadband service for countries throughout the Caribbean, while his wife owned a dog kennel that bred and sold pedigree championship puppies, according to Freeman. None of funds generated by Andrea Chisholm's business, Strathglass Kennels, was ever reported to the state, the complaint said. ABC News' calls and emails to the TCN Network and contacts listed for the Chisholms went unanswered.
All welfare benefits going to the Chisholms were terminated at the end of March 2012, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the couple, who have reportedly fled the state, the complaint said. Fraud charges typically carry a probation sentence, but prosecutors said in a statement they will request harsher sentencing "because the Chisholms committed a "major economic offense."
"It is truly outrageous when persons of considerable means steal from the government and all of us taxpayers through abusing the social welfare system," Freeman said. "We will prosecute this case with all the capacity we have."