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‘Scottish aristocrat’ yacht couple accused of welfare fraud arrested in Florida

By Reuters
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 6:13 EDT
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Andrea and Colin Chisholm
 
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A Minnesota couple, who went on the run after being accused of claiming welfare benefits while living on a million-dollar yacht, has been arrested in Florida, authorities said on Tuesday.

Colin Chisholm III and his wife, Andrea, allegedly received more than $165,000 in food stamps and other public assistance over a seven-year period, a Minnesota prosecutor said.

Police in the Bahamas spotted the couple on Monday and told them their visas had expired. Authorities then escorted the Chisholms, their son and dog onto a ship bound for Fort Lauderdale.

The couple was arrested on arrival in Port Everglades, Florida, according to a statement from the office of Mike Freeman, a prosecutor in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Last month, the Chisholms were each charged with a felony count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance in excess of $35,000. The charges were originally filed in February but sealed while police searched for the couple.

In April 2005, the couple purchased a $1.2 million yacht, The Andrea Aras, shortly after applying for welfare benefits in Minnesota, according to criminal complaints.

For 28 months, the Chisholms were living on the yacht near Palm Beach, Florida, while claiming they lived in Minnesota, the complaints say.

According to the complaints, Colin Chisholm was chief executive officer of a satellite television and broadband services company and his wife was a breeder of pedigree dogs.

Investigators said tried to pass themselves off as Scottish aristocrats — at least when they weren’t signing government benefits forms.

“These were rich folks ripping off the system,” said Mike Freeman, Hennepin County (Minn.) Attorney.

Between 2005 and 2012, the couple allegedly deposited more than $2.6 million in bank accounts that was not reported on their applications for welfare benefits, the complaints said.

The couple lived in luxury homes in suburban Minneapolis, once owned a $30,000 Lexus and also collected welfare benefits in Florida, according to the complaints.

Watch this video report posted online by WPTV-TV:

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