Couple on the run for over $160,000 in welfare fraud

For seven years, a wealthy couple pulled in $167,000 in state assistance benefits, including food stamps and welfare. While they stopped doing so in 2012, their illegal activities finally came to the attention of authorities, who are hunting them down:


A Minnesota couple who allegedly claim to be Scottish aristocrats are on the run, accused of claiming public assistance benefits while living on their $1.2 million yacht and driving a $30,000 Lexus.

Andrea Chisholm, 54, and Colin Chisholm III, 62, allegedly collected more than $167,000 in welfare, food stamps and medical assistance across two states over a period of around seven years, according to a complaint filed with a Minnesota State court.

For the past month, Hennepin County Sheriff’s department has been searching for the couple who are still at large, according to a statement issued by the Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman.

“Mr. … sorry. Lord and Lady Chisholm the third, are fraudsters of the first degree,” Freeman said. “These folks ripped off the system.”

Their plan was pretty brazen, though one has to wonder how they got away with it until 2012:

The Chisholms began claiming public assistance in Minnesota in 2005 after telling authorities they were living with Andrea’s mother in Minneapolis. Just weeks after the pair applied for assistance, they also bought an 83-foot yacht for $1.2 million in Florida, which they lived on for 28 months, according to the complaint. They were also claiming benefits in Florida at the same time as they were collecting money in Minnesota, the complaint said.

The couple also allegedly failed to report the nearly $3 million they had deposited in various bank accounts “to support their lavish lifestyle,” and concealed that they had lived in luxury lakeside homes in Deepahaven since 2008 when they moved back to Minnesota, the complaint said.

During this time, the pair continued to receive welfare benefits and medical assistance from the state, including the prenatal care Andrea Chisholm received while pregnant in 2006 and 2007, the complaint said.


The Chisholms are getting enormous media attention, as they should. Hopefully, they are arrested and charged to the full extent of the law, and their experience brings about the right policy changes to state and federal anti-poverty programs.

Politicians and bureaucrats don’t like to talk about it in any substantive fashion, but fraud and other inefficiencies are enormous, and the Chisholms aren’t even the biggest culprits. The federal government alone sees hundreds of billions of dollars lost each year to fraud, though nobody knows exactly how much or how it’s done. And while conservatives rightly express concerns about the financial stability of anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security, and Medicare, improperly and inefficiently spent federal dollars cost taxpayers enough to balance the budget and then some for years to come.

In a government as large and complicated as ours, tracking all the dollars is nearly impossible. Medicare and Medicaid alone have been estimated at $100 billion in lost funds due to fraud — about one-seventh of the combined expenditures of the programs — and the Pentagon may see a similar amount of its budget lost to fraud on an annual basis, though its budget is such a convoluted mess it’s impossible to know the extent of the fraud.

In Fiscal Year 2013, the federal government spent more than $3.9 trillion, though after federal park fees, postal office fees, and the like the “net cost” of federal spending was $3.7 trillion. And while the Obama administration claims credit for dropping the rate of improper payments from 5.4 % in 2009 to 3.5% in 2013, last year’s total of $139 billion was $31 billion more lost to improper payments than was seen in 2012. (And this does not include the entire federal government, since the Department of Defense is not the only agency lacking internal controls and accountability.)


Duplication — at least $200 billion annually, according to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) — and other inefficiencies complete the ensemble of awfulness that makes up the federal budget. While the total number of dollars lost is unknown, it’s pretty clear that at least 20% of the federal government’s outgoing dollars are not used in the way Congress intended.

And none of that includes intentional corruption, such as corporate welfare, or the existence of programs that shouldn’t, such as federal food stamps.

Of course, rather than work to spend taxpayer dollars more effectively — or spend fewer of them in fewer programs, and thus prevent the opportunity to lose so much money — most politicians brag about relatively miniscule amounts recovered, or ignore the problem outright until people like the Chisholms come to light. Which brings us back to the couple on the run, and how they got away with their fraud for so long.

Dustin Siggins is the Washington, D.C. Correspondent for and formerly the primary blogger with Tea Party Patriots. He is a co-author of the forthcoming book, Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation. His work has been published by numerous online and print publications, including USA Today, Roll Call, Hot Air, Huffington Post, Mediaite, and First Things.


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