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Accused welfare cheats to judge: 'We're broke'

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A Minnesota couple who once called themselves Lord and Lady Chisholm now call themselves broke.

Colin and Andrea Chisholm told a judge in Minneapolis Thursday they have no bail money and can't afford a lawyer to defend them against welfare fraud charges, the Star Tribune reports.

The newspaper notes this comes two years after the couple – who have claimed to be Scottish royalty – said their assets were worth $97 million.

Charges filed against the Chisholms last month accuse them of fraudulently collecting more than $160,000 worth of public assistance in Minnesota and Florida while their bank account was stocked with more than $3 million.

The complaint against them says the Chisholms lived in a luxury home on Lake Minnetonka and also owned a Florida home and an 83-foot yacht. The charges say the welfare fraud occurred between 2005 and 2012.

On March 31 they were deported from the Bahamas because of expired visas and were arrested when their ship landed at a Fort Lauderdale port.

KSTP reports that at Thursday's court hearing the Chisholms surrended their passports and signed extradition waivers.

The Star Tribune says Hennepin County District Court Judge Tanya Bransford agreed to double the bail for the couple to $300,000 each. A prosecutor had argued the couple is a flight risk – pointing out that they'd made arrangements for the care of Andrea Chisholm's 99-year-old grandmother and stored boxes of financial documents at a neighbor's home.

The county also asked the judge to verify that the Chisholms qualify for a public defender, the newspaper reports.

KSTP says the court hearing will continue on Friday.

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