Minnesota couple charged with receiving welfare while living life of luxury


Colin Chisholm III and his wife Andrea were receiving public assistance for their medical care, but they violated the law when they failed to inform Hennepin County authorities that they had moved to Florida. To live on their $1.2 million yacht. And drive their $30,000 Lexus. And collect welfare from the state of Florida.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he had charged Colin, 62, and Andrea, 54, each with a single count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance over $35,000 after they illegally received more than $165,000 between 2005 and 2012 from various government programs designed to help the poor. Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies have been searching for the couple the past month and they are still at large.

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According to the criminal complaints filed in February but released Friday, over the years, the Chisholms filled out more than a dozen forms for the state of Minnesota and Hennepin County in order to receive medical assistance, welfare payments and food stamps.

The prenatal care for Andrea while she was pregnant with the couple’s son in 2006 and January 2007 was paid for by the state, and their welfare benefits increased after the birth. Each time they lied about where they were living, who they were living with, the fact that Colin Chisholm owned a business and his wife owned a dog kennel which bred and sold championship dogs. They also failed to report bank accounts which they controlled. Hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed through those accounts while they were claiming to be destitute, according to the criminal complaints.

In other documents turned up during the investigation, Colin Chisholm was the chief executive officer of TCN Network, which purported to be a satellite television and broadband service for countries throughout the Caribbean. More than $1 million dollars flowed through accounts he controlled as part of that company, the complaint states.

When they first applied to the state of Minnesota for welfare benefits, they said they lived with Andrea’s mother at 3202 Harriet Ave. S. in Minneapolis. However, beginning in January 2005 and for the next 28 months, they lived in Florida on their yacht, which they called the Andrea Aras or later, in a home in Florida. Yet, in depositions for a civil suit over the ownership of the yacht, both Colin and Andrea testified they lived in Connecticut and Florida, but never mentioned Minnesota.

In April 2007, the Chisholms returned to Minnesota and applied for additional welfare benefits. And in March 2008, they moved into a luxury home in Deephaven with Andrea’s grandparents Eloise and Francis Heidecker. Francis died in February 2009 at age 94 and by September of that year, Eloise Heidecker and the Chisholms were evicted from the home. They immediately moved to another Deephaven home on Lake Minnetonka. On their forms, the Chisholms hid the fact that they lived with Heidecker, for whom Andrea Chisholm had power of attorney and controlled her bank accounts.

“These rich folks ripped off the system,” Freeman said at a Friday news conference. “We are going to do every darn thing we can to make sure they do hard time.”

Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department terminated all welfare benefits to the Chisholms at the end of March 2012.

Prosecutors will ask that the judge be allowed to impose a longer sentence than the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines call for because the Chisholms committed a major economic offense.

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On Monday, March 31 the Chisholms were deported from the Bahamas Monday and arrested that night when they landed near Ft. Lauderdale. The county attorney’s office has asked that the couple be extradited back to Minneapolis to stand trial on the charges. Read more.