Colin Chisholm pleads guilty in welfare fraud

Monday, November 17, 2014

Colin Chisholm III pleaded guilty to welfare fraud, which included receiving benefits while living on a million dollar yacht, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

Chisholm, 62, specifically pleaded guilty to one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance and one count of theft by swindle over $35,000. He and his wife, Andrea, 52, illegally received more than $167,000 in public benefits, although his attorney will contest that amount in a later restitution hearing.  Andrea Chisholm pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting wrongfully obtaining public assistance in August.

“Too often, people think that only poor people commit crimes,” Freeman said. “We know that is not true and the Chisholms are a perfect example. What they did was abominable, stealing from the government and the taxpayers while living a luxurious lifestyle. That’s why we pushed for a tougher sentence than the probation he normally would have received.”

Colin Chisholm will be sentenced on Jan. 5.  During his hearing Monday, Chisholm also acknowledged that his crimes were major economic offenses because they involved large dollar amounts, were committed repeatedly and over a long period of time. That allowed the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to seek a sentence of 21 months in prison, which he is expected to receive.

Andrea Chisholm was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for her role in the scheme, an upward departure due to the severity of the economic crime.  She admitted to knowingly signing the inaccurate forms and fraudulently obtaining economic assistance. 

During his hearing Monday, Colin Chisholm spent about 20 minutes answering questions about his crimes from his attorney and assistant Hennepin County Attorney John Halla.

“I received benefits from Hennepin County I really wasn’t entitled to,” he said. “I’m taking full responsibility for that.”

He admitted that from January 2005 until May 2012 he filled out welfare forms that allowed him, Andrea and their baby son to receive welfare benefits including medical care, money and supplemental nutrition grants and other welfare benefits. If he had filled out the forms honestly, he would have reported that for a couple of years they were living in Florida, first on a yacht and later in a home. When they were in Minnesota, they claimed to be living with Andrea’s mother in Minneapolis when they were living in two different homes in Deephaven with Andrea’s grandmother.

Nor did he put on the forms that he had money from his Caribbean broadcasting company, Andrea’s dog kennel business and other funds, Chisholm admitted. If he had reported his residences and his assets, they would not have been eligible for welfare benefits.