MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A South Florida couple accused of living a lavish lifestyle while collecting food stamps and other forms of public assistance from the state of Florida and Minnesota have been captured at Port Everglades.
Prosecutors have described Colin Chisolm, III and his wife Andrea as, “rich folks ripping off the system.”
Authorities said the Chisolm’s committed fraud by receiving public assistance while living on a $1.2 million yacht while also collecting Medicaid, food stamps and cash welfare assistance from the state of Florida, while also collecting benefits from the state of Minnesota.
In the state of Minnesota’s criminal complaint against Colin Chisolm, the state said the couple “failed to report nearly $3 million deposited in bank accounts which they owned, controlled, or used to support their lifestyle.
The Chisolms initially applied for tax-payer funded health care coverage in 2004 and when they didn’t provide verification of income, Hennepin County Human Services denied the application. The state overruled the county and the Chisolms completed the application and signed it to receive the benefits, which was based on false claims, the state of Minnesota said.
In 2005, prosecutors say the Chisolms were on taxpayer health care coverage while they negotiated to buy the million-dollar yacht. Law enforcement said the defendants made a down-payment of $220,000 in January 2005 and made monthly payments of $7,500 until a second lump sump of $157,000 was due in March 2005.
All total, Minnesota officials said the Chisolms paid $264,375 on their yacht while receiving Minnesota’s public health care.
Minnesota officials said the couple told state officials that they lived full-time in Minnesota, but starting in January 2005, the duo lived on their yacht at Turnberry Isle, where it was docked.
After the boat was repossessed in 2005 for lack of payments, both allegedly moved to Lighthouse Point and fought to get their possessions back. While still receiving Minnesota assistance, law enforcement said Colin Chisolm swore in federal court that both lived Connecticut before January 1, 2005.
When asked for an address in Connecticut, Colin Chisolm told attorneys 15 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, Connecticut. Investigators found out the address is a UPS Store in the city.
Minnesota authorities said that in 2007 Andrea gave birth to a son in Palm Beach and both claimed to be indigent and successfully applied for welfare from the state of Florida. The Chisolm’s benefits included cash, food support, and medical assistance, according to the criminal complaint.
A few months after the birth, Minnesota officials said the duo came back to Minnesota to apply for Minnesota benefits. The criminal complaint stated that both states were providing benefits for one year, which is against Minnesota state law.
Hennepin County again granted welfare benefits and food stamp benefits to the couple after the duo allegedly failed to report their income. Authorities said the couple “completed, signed, and submitted” 13 forms fraudulently to receive benefits.
When asked where they were living on the state forms, the couple allegedly told officials they lived with Andrea’s mother and paid her between $300 and $500 per month in rent.
However, the criminal complaint said the couple was living in two different homes on Lake Minnetonka.
The state of Minnesota said that during the public assistance collection from January 2005-April 2012, “approximately $2,630,000 was deposited into accounts which the defendants owned, controlled, managed, or had use of.”
Minnesota officials said the accounts were never accounted for on 12 separate forms.
One way Minnesota officials said the couple hid the money was to funnel money from a business of Chisolm’s along with a side business selling puppies through an account belonging to an elderly grandmother.
All total, the Chisolm’s allegedly fraudlently received $167,420.30 in public assistance from the state of Minnesota.
Both Colin and Andrea Chisolm are being held in the Broward County Jail. Colin faces a charge of fraudulently/wrongfully obtain public assistance.
If they’re convicted, the Chisholms could face up to 20 years in prison.