Colin Chisholm Admits to Welfare Fraud

Colin Chisholm admitted in court Monday that, by accepting welfare while living on a yacht and in a Lake Minnetonka mansion, he'd committed a "major economic offense." In exchange for a guilty plea to one count of theft by swindle and one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance, prosecutors settled their international-headline-grabbing case with a 21-month sentence.

For seven years, Chisholm failed to disclose his financial resources, his true whereabouts, and his housemates -- all of which would have made him undeserving of state-supported healthcare, food stamps, and stipends.

See also:
Colin and Andrea Chisholm's real-life American hustle

On 12 welfare applications, Chisholm and his wife, Andrea, swore they lived in south Minneapolis when, actually, they lived (for most of those years) in Lighthouse Point, Florida, or Deephaven, Minnesota. Through it all, Colin Chisholm passed himself off as Scottish royalty and boasted to friends, neighbors, and fellow church members that he was worth more than $97 million to sweet-talk investors into his startup Caribbean media company.

Chisholm spoke only a few words in court Monday, mostly "yes," and so quietly at times that he was barely audible. But he grew louder when he claimed "full responsibility" for state funds that "I wasn't really entitled to."

And did those funds belong to the state, one of his public defenders, Shawn Webb, asked?

"Yes," Chisholm responded, "of course."

The case won't go to trial now, but documents in the public domain are loaded with odd and troubling tidbits that might have arisen. On November 6, Hennepin County prosecutors filed a notice with the court showing how they intended to impeach Chisholm on the stand. For instance:
In 2010, while soliciting potential investors for TCN, Defendant told them that he had extensive broadcasting business experience, including as the producer of television shows, "Gilligan's Island" and "The Streets of San Francisco."
Impressive. Yet preposterous. Chisholm was 12 when the Skipper and the Little Buddy splashed onto the airwaves.

Even worse, around December 2011, Chisholm allegedly gave medical advice to a cancer patient (and potential investor), pointing to a Harvard Medical School diploma in his Deephaven home. Where did he actually go to school? According to prosecutors, the New England Institute of Anatomy in Boston, for funeral home management.

Then there's the little matter of his driver's license. Chisholm never obtained one while living in Minnesota, but did get one -- weeks before leaving the country last year -- in Iowa, using an Estherville address. That address belonged to one of Andrea's cousins, who told Hennepin County investigators that the lease Chisholm had presented with his Iowa application was fictitious.

One question remains: What is the proper restitution? Prosecutors say Chisholm fraudulently collected $167,000 in public assistance, but his public defenders intend to argue in the coming weeks that that figure is lower. The discrepancy will be addressed at a January 5 sentencing hearing.

Andrea Chisholm remains in jail, having taken her own plea deal in August, and her family did not attend Monday's hearing. Afterward, prosecutors and investigators shook hands and congratulated one another, strolling into the hallway.

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