MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CNN) — A Minnesota couple facing allegations of stealing public assistance spent their second day in a Hennepin County courtroom Friday.
Colin and Andrea Chisholm remain in jail, facing felony fraud charges of misrepresenting their qualifications for taking food stamps, welfare payments and other assistance between 2005 and 2012.
Defense Attorney Tom Kelly, who is representing Colin Chisholm, says his client is not a man of means.
“He doesn’t have $97 million, he is indigent,” Kelly said. “He is poverty stricken.”
The couple appeared before Judge Janet Poston on Friday in a continuance of their initial appearances after being returned to Minnesota from the Bahamas to face formal fraud charge.
But a far different picture emerged in court of the couple that prosecutors say bilked taxpayers out of $167,000 in welfare payments in Minnesota and Florida.
“To a large extent, what he told welfare was accurate. He was indigent, he was eligible in many ways for their benefits,” Kelly said.
Hennepin County prosecutors allege that the Chisholms were taking public assistance while living in luxury. They were renting an expensive Deephaven home, raising show dogs and had even purchased a $1 million yacht in Florida.
But the picture presented in the courtroom was one of indigence. Andrea Chisholm applied for and was granted representation by public defender Sean Cahill. But in a blow to Chisholm, Judge Poston agreed with prosecutors who claim she and her husband remain flight risks.
Andrea Chisholm’s bail was increased from $150,000 to the same $300,000 as her husband.
“More than likely, we anticipate that Ms. Chisholm was returning to address these charges and take responsibility for her actions,” Cahill said.
Prosecutors say when the investigation into the alleged fraud was heating up, the couple suddenly left Minnesota and headed to the Bahamas, where Colin was operating a faltering cable television business.
Despite claims of intense wealth as recent as 2009, defense attorney Kelly said the couple is now flat broke.
“They were living off of loans, they were living off of gifts people made,” Kelly said.
The couple’s next court appearance will be on April 29.