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Accused Minn. welfare cheaters deported from Bahamas, jailed

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota couple who allegedly lived in expensive homes and owned a $1.2 million yacht, all while taking more than $160,000 in state welfare benefits, has been arrested.

Colin Chisholm III, 62, and Andrea Chisholm, 54, are being held in Florida, according to CBS Minnesota.

"These rich folks ripped off the system," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told the station. "I can assure you that this office will do every darn thing we can do to make sure these people do hard time."

They were deported from the Bahamas on Monday and arrested when they landed near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The Chisholms' son and dog were turned over to family members.

The $1.2 million yacht that the Chisholms were living on while allegedly collecting welfare benefits from both Minnesota and Florida. CBS Minnesota
The Chisholms are expected to appear in extradition court Wednesday to say whether they will fight extradition to Minnesota, where they are facing one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance equaling more than $35,000, which is a felony charge.

"I've never ridden on a yacht that nice, and I bet most of us haven't, but they were living on it while they were collecting public assistance," said Freeman. "[Colin Chisholm] created all sorts of false companies, claimed he was a Scottish heir. It's outrageous."

CBS Minnesota reports that the news came as a surprise to Dr. Mike King, the couple's neighbor. "I was a bit shocked to find out that these allegations were raised," he told the station.

King lives next door to the home the Chisolms lived in near Lake Minnetonka in Deephaven. Aside from referring to each other as "Lord" and "Lady," the Chisolms were pretty normal neighbors, King said.

"I found Andrea and Colin both very personable and affable people," King said. "They've come into our home on occasion, they've had dinner."

According to King, Colin Chisholm said he was part of an entertainment company, and Andrea Chisholm claimed that she was a high-end dog trainer, breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Everything seemed neighborly until King said Colin Chisholm asked him for a $100,000 investment for his house, saying he wanted to put it on the historic registry. "That was the first scheme that I heard from Colin that made me question his credibility," he said.

King, a cardiologist, said the case against the Chisholms is personal, and not just because he knows them. "I see a lot of homeless, sick, and destitute patients, and to think that taxpayers are supporting a fraud like this [has] been very unsettling," he said.

Court documents allege the pair illegally obtained food stamps and other benefits from 2005 to 2012.

According to the criminal complaints, over the years the Chisholms received medical assistance, welfare payments, and food stamp benefits. They also allegedly lied about where they were living, who they were living with, and their source of income on more than a dozen forms they filled out for the state of Minnesota and Hennepin County in order to get the assistance.

When they first applied for welfare benefits, the couple allegedly listed their residence as Andrea Chisholm's mother's home in Minneapolis. Shortly after getting approved, they moved to Florida, according to court documents.

They remained Florida for at least 28 months, first on their $1.2 million yacht, and then moving to a house, officials said. They collected welfare from both Florida and Minnesota during that time -- which is prohibited -- according to court documents.

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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