"As to TCN," Colin added with emphasis, "that company did not get funded and never filed anything."

The county didn't buy it and moved to cut off benefits. After a year of digging, Lange and O'Hara were about ready to complete their investigation. There was just one last piece of the puzzle: Andrea's grandmother.

Eloise Heidecker was suffering from dementia and needed constant care, but the Chis­holms had failed to list her as a housemate with substantial assets of her own. When searching the elderly woman's bank statements, investigators found that Andrea — who maintains power of attorney over Heidecker — had deposited checks from company investors in the old woman's account and paid herself handsomely for the couple's personal needs. In April 2011 alone, the Chisholms spent more than $23,000 in airfare, hotels, cell phone bills, and fine dining, according to court papers. That same month, Colin paid for his admission into the Knights of Malta with money from Heidecker's piggy bank.

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.

As spring 2013 approached, Lange reached out to Colin with questions about his whereabouts and income over the past nine years. The call that came back wasn't from Colin but his attorney, Thomas Kelly.

Throughout a 40-year career in law, Kelly had made his name defending white-collar criminals, including former Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, who was busted cruising for gay sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On the phone, Kelly explained that any statements in response to the charges would come from his office. The investigators interpreted this as a "no ­comment" and forwarded their findings to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

While reviewing the claims, Kelly became convinced that the best thing for his client was to quickly negotiate a repayment plan and keep his name — and past endeavors — out of the newspapers.

"There's no question he owes people a lot of money across the country," Kelly says. "But that doesn't make him an immoral or evil person. It makes him bad to invest in."

Months passed without any word from the state. Kelly got the impression that charges could be filed in the fall. Anticipation grew. So in September, Colin boarded a plane to California and returned home with $120,000 in $100 bills.

The charge against Colin came down on February 19, 2014 — one count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance over $35,000 — punishable by up to 20 years in jail. In March, Andrea was slapped with the same charge, and the hunt for the couple was on.

Standing before TV cameras, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman mocked the lord and lady of welfare. His manner swung from humorous to indignant as he laid out the merits of the case and vowed that justice would be served.

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

Colin had spent the winter of 2013 trying to lure Grand Prix auto racing to the Bahamas. But with the announcement of the charges, the Chis­holms spent the next couple of weeks bouncing between apartments, staying one step ahead of the Bahamian Police. Meanwhile, Colin explored every available option, including fleeing to Turks and Caicos, tropical islands that don't honor extradition treaties with the United States, according to court papers.

Colin desperately plundered his Rolodex for help. One email he sent to a family friend in Minnesota characterized the recent news reports of his run from the law as "outrageous." Colin conceded that he might be a "sinner" but professed that he was innocent of the present charges. He asked for refuge and concluded by appealing on religious grounds.

"You know how to help us or direct us, thank God."

On March 31, the Chisholms packed their bags one more time and headed for a bus. But before they could board, Bahamian Police officers — who'd been keeping their eye on the apartment — seized the couple's passports. They sent the family back on a ferry to Port Everglades, Florida, where they were immediately arrested. (Their son is in the custody of relatives.)

At his extradition hearing the next day, Colin looked exhausted. A gaggle of reporters gawked as he lurched toward a Broward County courtroom in handcuffs.

"Hey, Colin," a TV journalist taunted, "if you're so wealthy, why did you need to steal all that money?"

Colin lifted his heavy eyelids but kept his head down. The hallway exploded with laughter.

Later, Broward County Judge John "Jay" Hurley halted the proceedings to question whether Colin was fit to continue. He looked ready to pass out in his seat, the flashes of the media cameras illuminating his drained face like a jack-o'-lantern.

"Do you need medical attention?" the broad-faced, avuncular judge asked.

Colin shook his head. After the hearing, he shuffled out of the spotlight, disappearing into a pack of indistinguishable blue jumpsuits.

Later that night, he inched slowly toward the jail phone that allows prisoners and visitors to communicate at the Paul Rein Detention Facility in Pompano Beach.

"Hello?" he asked, in a barely audible whisper to a reporter he'd never met before.

Can you speak about the case? the reporter asked.

Colin shook his head slowly.

"Well, is there anyone close to you who would be willing to speak about your character?" the reporter asked.

Colin stood quietly, lost in thought. Finally, he said: "There's no one left to call."

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