'Lady Chisholm' pleads guilty to welfare fraud, gets prison time

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Andrea Chisholm, who along with her husband was accused of collecting welfare payments despite having millions of dollars in the bank, pled guilty to a single felony charge Tuesday afternoon in Hennepin County court, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

In a press release, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office says Chisholm, 54, pleaded guilty to a single count of aiding and abetting wrongfully obtaining public assistance.

The case against Colin Chisholm III, 62, is continuing, the attorney's office said.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County, the Chisholms were charged with collecting more than $167,000 in welfare benefits from 2005-2012, despite having $3.2 million in the bank and living in a luxurious lakefront home in Deephaven. The charges say the couple also purchased the 83-foot yacht for $1.2 million, owned a $30,000 Lexus, and owned a seaside home in Florida – from which they also collected welfare.

In an April court hearing, prosecutors said the Chisholms claimed they were descendants of Scottish royalty and called themselves “Lord” and “Lady,” and lied on public assistance request forms by claiming they were broke.

A charge of theft by swindle against Andrea Chisholm was dropped. As part of the agreement, Chisholm admitted she committed a major economic offense. That admission allowed her to be sentenced to prison time rather than probation, according to the county attorney's office.

During the hour-long hearing, Andrea Chisholm acknowledged she signed various welfare benefits forms, but said it was her husband who had filled them out. She admitted she knew the information on the forms was false – that her husband had money coming into bank accounts from his business, and that they collected health care benefits while living on the yacht in Florida.

Hennepin County Judge Lois Conroy ordered Chisholm to pay restitution of $167,420, although Chisholm said she will appeal that figure at a future date, according to the county attorney's office.

"It's appropriate that Andrea Chisholm spend time behind bars for cheating the public of welfare dollars," Freeman said. "Her husband's case remains open as it appears he was a bigger player in defrauding the public, as we heard in Andrea's testimony today."

Colin Chisholm's next court appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 10.

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