As his dream took root, Colin turned his attention to his family lineage. On a trip to Scotland, the Chisholms stayed with distant relatives in Inverness, the northernmost city in the U.K., which sits at the mouth of the River Ness. There he visited Erchless Castle, once the seat of the Chisholm clan, known throughout the Highlands for their dexterity at rustling cattle.

"These were rich folks ripping off the system. I will make sure they do hard time."

Colin returned to the States referring in good humor to his wife as Lady and himself as Lord. But as the titles were repeated ad nauseam, they stopped sounding like a joke.

All was not well at the Chis­holm manor. As the 1980s receded, the trappings of wealth began to fall by the wayside, to be replaced by a long list of debts. In 1990, Midlantic Home Mortgage Corp. began foreclosure proceedings on the couple's Northport, Long Island, home. The money from GE never came, because Chisholm failed in the final hour to stitch together the last $2.5 million needed to keep up his end of the bargain.

Andrea and Colin Chisholm, as pictured in their March 31 booking photos shortly after being arrested at Port Everglades.
Broward Sheriff's Office
Andrea and Colin Chisholm, as pictured in their March 31 booking photos shortly after being arrested at Port Everglades.
The Chisholms during happier times in Minnetonka, Minnesota, circa 2013.
Courtesy photo
The Chisholms during happier times in Minnetonka, Minnesota, circa 2013.

The family boxed up its possessions and headed to Maine, where Virginia was forced to take a job in a flower shop. Before long, both angry and tired, Virginia had found her way back to Jacksonville, North Carolina. Once there, her daughter filed for bankruptcy, alleging that Colin had cosigned with her on a credit card and ran up $40,000 in charges.

After years of living apart, Virginia marched into the Onslow County Courthouse on May 7, 2002, and filed for an official separation. She called Colin to relay the news — but she was in for a surprise of her own.

"We're already divorced," she remembers him saying. "I got a quickie."

He wasn't kidding. In October 2001, Colin had filled out paperwork at Nevada's Second Judicial Courthouse in Reno. Virginia's signature appears as a joint petitioner, but she swears someone forged it.

Colin also presented clerks with an affidavit from a resident who claimed under penalty of perjury that Colin had established temporary residency in Hawthorne, Nevada. That witness happened to be Eric Brix — the brother of the woman who would become the new Lady Chisholm.

Andrea Brix was raised in Estherville, Iowa — a small town of about 6,000 — by a single mom who was known for reclusive behavior. From the beginning, Andrea took a different path, forging a robust social life as a popular cheerleader with a well-earned reputation for partying.

Inspired by a classmate who made it onto a soap opera, Andrea moved to New York in her mid-20s. At five-foot-seven, the graduate of Nancy Bounds Modeling School knew she'd never be tall enough for the runway, but she figured she could get some print work down the line. Besides, she was living at the center of the country's wealth.

"She was so much more interested in money compared to anybody else I knew," remembers Kathe Beauvais, a childhood friend and bleached-blond nurse. "She could tell the ones who had money, and that's who she was really impressed with."

In spring 2002, after the new couple had settled in Connecticut, Colin slid a diamond ring onto Andrea's finger to make their engagement official. Unfortunately, the expensive bauble was well beyond his means. He had been able to afford it thanks to a happy accident.

The previous year, Caribtel Limited, one of Colin's companies, had entered into a contract with Verizon to facilitate international telephone calls. But when Verizon merged with Bell Atlantic the following year, the bank wire information had to be reentered manually. The routing number for Caribtel was erroneously substituted for Qwest Communications International's. The typo bequeathed Colin a windfall of more than $250,000.

Moving to correct the mistake, Verizon made phone calls to Caribtel, then sent a letter seeking restitution. Colin responded by offering to repay the debt with the equivalent in media time, according to a Verizon attorney, but the company wasn't interested in free commercials. It filed a lawsuit instead.

Colin was summoned to appear in U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello's courtroom in New Haven, Connecticut, but he failed to show up. Covello awarded default judgment to Verizon and ordered Colin to pay $260,000 to cover fees and interest.

On November 23, 2002, Colin's 51st birthday, he was arrested and questioned about the money he still owed. He told Greenwich investigators that he had used it to buy a diamond ring and pay down the debt on his lavish wedding reception.

"It's all gone," Colin testified. "I don't even have enough to pay my attorney."

The couple retreated to a cottage in New Canaan, Connecticut, on a private road shrouded by trees. Colin put down the security deposit and the first month's rent but promptly stopped making payments, according to court papers. The landlords nagged him until he finally produced a check for $9,029. It bounced.

New Canaan Police pulled into the driveway on a bright day in February 2004 with a warrant in tow. Colin greeted two officers at the front door and showed them his driver's license before being led peacefully to the squad car. At the station, he had a ready excuse: His company had stopped payment of the rent check. A bail bondsman put up the $9,000 to spring him from jail.

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