Couple sailed world with cash from benefits fraud

A couple who ran a £43,000 benefits swindle while sailing the world on a luxury yacht were jailed yesterday.

Shashi Bacheta, 52, and Jeffrey Cole, 58, admitted a total of 20 charges connected with the elaborate fraud which lasted almost five years.

Bacheta drew a series of benefits, claiming she was too ill even to walk while scuba diving in Kenya and planned to remain travelling the world on her lover's £100,000 yacht, The Kismet.

She was jailed for 21 months yesterday at Swansea Crown Court. Her lover was jailed for nine months. Judge Huw Davies QC gave Cole a lesser sentence because of the smaller amount, just over £13,000, he had claimed. He had used an inheritance to buy the yacht.

Carl Harrison, for the prosecution, told the court that Bacheta had claimed to be living in a succession of addresses in Swansea, South Wales, where her benefit claims were made. At the time, she was scuba diving in Kenya, swimming with dolphins in the Canary Islands and planning further holidays.

When the couple were arrested in January last year after an 18-month Department of Work and Pensions investigation in conjunction with Swansea Council, they were planning a road trip across the US in a camper van.

Bacheta, a mother of three, was caught out when investigators tracked down the yacht on an internet blog site called smugmug.com, which showed photographs of Bacheta and her lover Cole lounging on the Kismet at a time when she claimed to be too ill to get out of bed. Bacheta admitted 16 offences of fraudulently claiming housing and council tax benefit, false accounting and obtaining money transfers by deception. Cole admitted four charges.

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