Fancying themselves to be Scottish aristocrats, a Minnesota couple who owned a $1.2 million yacht and lived in expensive homes have been arrested in Florida. They are accused of fraudulently receiving over $160,000 in Minnesota state welfare benefits. Colin Chisholm III, 62, and Andrea Chisholm, 54, are being held in Florida after being deported from the Bahamas on March 27. After their arrest in Fort Lauderdale, family members took custody of their son and dog. They will appear in an extradition court on Wednesday.
 
The couple is charged with a one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance more than $35,000, a felony charge. County Attorney Mike Freeman of Hennepin County, Minnesota, said that the Chisolm couple was living on their yacht while receiving public assistance. Of Colin Chisholm III, Freeman said, "He created all sorts of false companies, claimed he was a Scottish heir. It's outrageous." They are alleged to have illegally received public assistance from several government programs designed to help the poor between Jan. 1, 2005 and May 31, 2012, according to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.
 
According to prosecutors, the Chisholms are alleged to have illegally obtained food stamps and other benefits from 2005 to 2012. Criminal complaints against the Chisholms contend that they received welfare payments, food stamps, and medical assistance. They are alleged to have lied about where they lived, with whom they lived, and about their income to Minnesota officials in order to receive the assistance. Their welfare benefits were terminated in March 2012.
 
They allegedly listed their residence as the home of  Andrea Chisholm's mother in Minneapolis. After receiving approval for benefits, they went to Florida. They lived for 28 months onboard their $1.2 million yacht, and then moved to a house, allege officials. Besides the benefits from Minnesota, they also collected benefits from Florida. Double-dipping is prohibited.
 
Because they allege that the Chisholms committed a major economic offense, prosecutors are asking for stiffer sentences than those called for under Minnesota law. 


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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