They met in New York City, where she was working in human resources for a large retailer. They married in 2001 at an exclusive club in Greenwich, Conn., Cushing said, adding, “Colin was heavy into getting that relationship started.”
Mutual friends brought Cushing and Colin Chisholm together, and Colin pitched his business plan to start a satellite TV network in the Caribbean called TCN Networks in 2002.
Cushing was going to be in charge of telecommunications while Chisholm focused on broadcasting and advertising. He was well-organized and a good salesman, Cushing said.
“The business sounded so sexy. I was very drawn to it,” said Cushing. “I wanted it to come true so badly.”
Meanwhile, Andrea Chisholm led the membership group of the Stanford (Conn.) Chamber of Commerce. Cushing described her as “quite a classy gal” who never appeared to have nefarious intentions.
“I think she was really taken in by the whole thing,” he said. “I have no doubt Colin loves her, but he was so far down the road with his business aspirations that it was hard for him to come clean.”
One of Colin Chisholm’s biggest business supporters was Ben Oehler, who was pegged to become TCN Networks’ chief financial officer in late 2009 if the start-up had taken off. He invested more than $100,000, calling the network a brilliant idea.
An East Coast securities brokerage firm set up an offering to raise $20 million to $30 million from large institutional investors like private equity firms, media companies and venture capital firms for the start-up. They received no investment offers, said Oehler.
“I checked out the business concept with a local broadcasting company and a national media investment bank,” he said. “Both said it was an interesting idea, but it was a tough time to start up a business.
Lots of loans
“I think clearly it turns out he lied to a lot of people about his background,” Oehler said. “He got a lot of personal loans from people he misled about his ability to pay … back.”
Before the Chisholms moved into their lakeside rental in September 2009, they lived a few miles away in a smaller rental home in south Deephaven.
Neighbor Hugh Jaeger and his wife had Thanksgiving dinner with the couple and complimented their cooking skills. He laughed as he recalled Colin Chisholm asking him to invest $500,000 in his TV network.
“It just didn’t quit with this guy,” Jaeger said. “They were very good neighbors to us. I don’t have anything bad to say about them at all.”
Jay Halvorson met Colin Chisholm in 2010 at a monthly breakfast meeting of about 50 west metro business owners. He said Colin presented himself as wealthy, but he was shocked at the condition of the Chisholms’ house during a Christmas party. Most didn’t know the house was a rental.
“It was impressive when you drove up,” Halvorson said. “Inside, there was water damage in the living room, plaster all bubbled up. It appeared they were breeding dogs in the house, which I thought was unusual.”
At last month’s bail hearing, attorney Tom Kelly said Colin Chisholm is willing to take responsibility for the welfare fraud charges. The couple had been living off gifts from friends and loans for the past several years after people around him recognized he was in dire straits, he said.
“The television network was his dream,” Kelly said. “And he chased it to his undoing.”