FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Andrea and Colin Chisholm III fancied themselves Scottish aristocrats, insisting on being called Lord and Lady and leading a lavish lifestyle fitting of royals.
They owned a $1.2 million, 83-foot yacht that was docked in South Florida. They lived in waterfront homes in Minnesota and in Lighthouse Point, Fla., and had $3 million tucked away in various bank accounts.
He was the successful, wealthy executive of a Miami-based broadcasting business; she, the owner of a company that bred pedigree Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, including one that won an award at the Westminster dog show.
And all the while, for about a decade, the Chisholms collected food stamps, Medicaid and welfare. First they got it from the state of Minnesota, then Florida, then — for about a year — both, simultaneously.
When Andrea gave birth to a son in Palm Beach in 2007, Minnesota picked up the $22,000 tab. When the couple moved north after a little more than two years in the Sunshine State, Florida kept paying out their benefits.
“These rich folks ripped off the system,” said Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman, who announced fraud charges against the couple on Friday. “And I will assure you that this office is going to do every darn thing we can do to make sure these people do hard time.”
If they can find them. Officials in Minnesota say they believe Andrea Chisholm, 54, and Colin Chisholm, III, 62, have left the country and headed “someplace warm.”
The Lord and Lady have been on the run for about six weeks.
In Florida, the Department of Children and Families is still reviewing the case.
If evidence of fraud is turned up here, another investigation could be launched, according to Ashley Carr, a spokeswoman for Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
In all, the Chisholms fraudulently took $167,420 in benefits from Minnesota, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County.