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Couple in U.S. lived on yacht, collected welfare: prosecutor

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[March 22, 2014]  By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters)  A couple who collected food stamps and other public assistance from Minnesota while living on a yacht in Florida were being sought on fraud charges, prosecutors said on Friday.

Colin Chisholm III and his wife, Andrea Chisholm, accepted more than $165,000 in public assistance between 2005 and 2012 before benefits were terminated, according to prosecutor Mike Freeman in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Charges against Colin Chisholm were filed in February but they were kept sealed while police searched for the couple, Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for Freeman, said on Friday. "They know by now we are looking for them."

The Chisholms are each charged with a felony count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance in excess of $35,000, the highest threshold under Minnesota law. Andrea Chisholm was charged on Thursday.

They bought a $1.2 million yacht, The Andrea Aras, in 2005 shortly after applying for welfare benefits in Minnesota, according to complaints against them. They have been accused of living on the yacht in the area of Palm Beach, Florida, for 28 months while lying about living in Minnesota.

Colin Chisholm was the chief executive officer of a satellite television and broadband services company, his wife bred and sold championship dogs, and over a seven-year period the couple deposited more than $2.6 million in bank accounts they did not report on applications for welfare benefits, according to the complaint.

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They have lived in luxury homes in suburban Minneapolis, driven a $30,000 Lexus and also collected welfare benefits in Florida, the complaint said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; editing by Sharon Bernstein)

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