Luxury yacht couple jailed over benefits con

A couple who ran a £40,000 benefits swindle while sailing the world on a luxury yacht were jailed today.

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

Bacheta swindled her way to a series of benefits claiming she was too ill even to walk while she was scuba diving in Kenya and planning to carry on around the world on her lover's £100,000 yacht, The Kismet.

She was jailed for 21 months today at Swansea Crown Court after the full details of the case were spelled out to a judge over a two-hour period.

Her lover, who was at the "helm" of the con, was jailed for nine months.



Anju Bacheta, 28, daughter of the accused, cried "Oh my God, that's my mother", as Bacheta was taken away to prison.

She was then fined £500 for the minor part she played in the swindle, after admitting fraudulently claiming several hundred pounds for being her mother's carer.

Judge Huw Davies QC gave Cole a lesser jail sentence because of the smaller amount of just over £13,000 he had jointly claimed with Bacheta over the period.

He used an inheritance to buy the luxury yacht, which was the springboard for the couple's sailing trips from where it was moored in Gran Canaria.

Passing sentence, the judge told him: "You were at the helm in a very real sense and set off to enjoy not only your own wealth but such money as you managed to get from public funds."

Carl Harrison, prosecuting, 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 variously scuba diving in Kenya, swimming with dolphins in the Canary Islands and planning to sail further around the world with Cole.

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 already planning a road trip across the US in an imported Volkswagen camper van.



Bacheta, a mother of three, was caught out when investigators tracked down the yacht on an internet blog site called smugmug.com.

On the blog was a series of photographs of Bacheta and her lover Cole lounging on the decks of the Kismet at a time when she claimed to be too ill to get out of bed.

Bacheta had admitted 16 offences of fraudulently claiming housing and council tax benefit, false accounting and obtaining money transfers by deception from the end of 2002 until the start of last year.

Cole, her accomplice, admitted four charges including receiving cash by deception for Bacheta, false accounting and wrongfully obtaining credit.



Mr Harrison outlined in court the full extent of the benefits swindle, amounting to just over £43,000 in total, carried out by the couple.

Bacheta moved to Swansea after her marriage had broken up in 2002. She had trained as an accountant but became bankrupt soon after the move and started claiming benefits.

After meeting Cole, however, she moved in with him and fraudulently claimed housing benefits from a succession of flats he owned in the city.

When he bought a Swansea Valley post office business he employed her to manage it and she arranged to have her benefits paid directly into a Post Office account there.

At the time she claimed to be living alone with her children and even went so far as to write to the council claiming that Cole, the landlord, would throw them out if the benefit was not paid.

"I am in a desperate situation. I have nothing to provide the basics for my children," she wrote in November 2003.

"In fact at that stage she was already living with Geoffrey Cole," Mr Harrison said.

He said that while working at the post office Bacheta and Cole would entertain staff on the luxury yacht at Swansea Marina with barbecues.

Later they were to visit Kenya and South Africa on holiday, calling in at what was to become their base in Gran Canaria.

Investigators seized a series of computers and passports from the couple's Swansea address after their arrest and found evidence of more foreign jaunts.

They both had three month visa stamps for Kenya from April 2004 from where they had been on several safaris.

On other occasions they cruised around the Mediterranean on the luxury yacht before heading to North Africa.

Mr Harrison said that in April 2006: "There is evidence that they went to Portugal, carried on down the North African coast and went on to the Canary Islands."

He said that from changes made to Cole's multi-trip travel insurance they had also planned to sail to the Caribbean.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?