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Welfare fraud: Couple lived on $1.2 million yacht, collecting welfare benefits

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Colin Chisholm III, 62 and Andrea Chisholm, 54, face one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance of more than $35,000. However, the couple allegedly got over $167,000 in public assistance as they lived in the lap of luxury on a Palm Beach, Florida yacht valued at $1.2 million. The offense is a felony, according to a CBS report on Wednesday.

At this time, the whereabouts of the Chisholm couple is not known by authorities – and the search is on.

A Hennepin County lawyer, Mike Freeman, said that the wealthy couple ripped off the system and everything that can be done to see that they serve hard time is going to be done in this case. He said that he’s never ridden on a yacht that nice and he assumes most people haven’t. Yet, he asserted, they were living on the yacht while collecting public assistance from taxpayer money.

The Hennepin County attorney’s office claims that the Chisholms illegally got public assistance from more than one government program from Jan. 1, 2005 until May 31, 2012. The public assistance programs from which they received funds were designed to help poor people.

Besides welfare payments and food stamps, the couple received medical assistance while they lied about their residence, who they were residing with, and their sources of income when filing forms for Hennepin County as well as the state of Minnesota.

The sources of their income, according to a Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department Fraud Unit investigation, amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Colin Chisholm made his money has the chief executive officer of TCN Network – which provides satellite TV and broadband service for countries in the Caribbean. Andrea Chisholm bred and sold championship dogs at a dog kennel which she owned.

Reportedly, the couple named the wife’s mother’s home in Minneapolis, Minnesota as their residence – then moved to Florida after they had their benefits approved. There, they lived on the yacht for 28 months before moving into a house. During their Florida residencies, the couple allegedly got welfare benefits from Minnesota and Florida.

Next, the couple returned to Minnesota in April 2007, applying for more welfare benefits, and in March 2008 they moved into a luxury home with Andrea’s grandparents – Eloise and Francis Heidecker - in Deephaven, Minnesota. Andrea controlled her elderly grandmother’s bank accounts.

The fraudulent scheme ended in March 2012 when the Fraud Unit was informed that the couple was employed. At that time, the couple didn’t provide tax documents when they were asked to do so.

A longer than stated term of incarceration is being requested by authorities due to the vast amount of money the Chisholms stole from the government and taxpayers.

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