"Lady" Chisholm pleads guilty in welfare fraud case


Andrea Chisholm pleaded guilty to a single count of aiding and abetting wrongfully obtaining public assistance and was immediately sentenced to a year and a day in prison, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

A charge of theft by swindle against Chisholm, 54, was dropped as part of the agreement. Chisholm and her husband, Colin, were charged with wrongfully obtaining more than $167,000 in welfare payments, medical assistance and other public benefits at a time when they did not qualify, and in fact, lived part of that time on a million dollar yacht in Florida.

As part of the agreement, Chisholm admitted in court Tuesday that she committed a major economic offense. As a result, instead of being sentenced to probation, the admission allowed for an upward departure in her sentence to prison time.

“It’s appropriate that Andrea Chisholm spend time behind bars for cheating the public of welfare dollars,” Freeman said. “Her husband’s case remains open as it appears he was a bigger player in defrauding the public as we heard in Andrea’s testimony today.”

In the hour-long hearing, Chisholm repeatedly said the signature on various welfare benefits forms were hers, but noted that it was her husband who filled out the forms. She admitted she knew the information on the forms was false, that her husband was self-employed and had money coming into bank accounts from his business and that they collected health care benefits while living on the Florida yacht.

“I signed documents that had inaccurate information that at the time I knew was inaccurate,” Chisholm told the court. “I received over $60,000 in fraudulent benefits.”

In fact, Hennepin County Judge Lois Conroy ordered her to pay restitution of $167,420.30, although Chisholm said she will fight that figure in a future hearing.

Colin Chisholm’s next court appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 10.