Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Benefit fraud pair sent to jail

Shashi Bacheta and Jeffrey Cole on board their yacht
Shashi Bacheta and Jeffrey Cole on board the yacht Kismet

A couple who sailed part way around the world on a £100,000 yacht while claiming benefits have been jailed.

Shashi Bacheta, 52, was sentenced to 21 months at Swansea Crown Court, while Jeffrey Cole received nine months.

Bacheta, of Swansea, admitted 16 counts relating to benefit and Cole, 58, admitted four charges which were together worth about £43,000.

It was found, despite claims Bacheta struggled to get out of bed because of an illness, that she went scuba diving.

Swansea Crown Court heard that at various times between October 2002 and January 2008 she claimed housing benefit, council tax relief, income support and disability living allowances.

She claimed to be unemployed and failed to declare she was living with Cole at his home in the Sketty area of Swansea or declare any of his assets.

You were guilty of a set of cynical offences of defrauding the benefit system
Judge Huw Davies

These included his yacht Kismet.

The court heard that mother-of-two Bacheta was paid disability living allowance, council tax benefit and housing benefit while cruising around the Canary Islands on the Kismet.

Cole pleaded guilty to four offences of obtaining wrongful credits and false accounting.

Judge Huw Davies told Bacheta: "You were in perfectly good health and took active holidays to travel so much of the world.

"You went on safari and sailing the seas in a private yacht.

"You were guilty of a set of cynical offences of defrauding the benefit system.

"You started off making applications for housing and council tax benefit. You went on to make application for any benefit you considered it possible to make.

"There was a degree of sophistication in what you did. You sought to get round the checks as a challenge to your ingenuity."

Gran Canaria

The judge said the pair had been living together for five years and "taking holidays in some considerable style".

He told Cole: "You bought a yacht for £100,000 having sold some of your properties. You set off to enjoy your personal wealth and money extracted from public funds."

Swansea Crown Court heard the couple were caught after posing for photographs while their yacht was moored in Gran Canaria.

Two retired police officers, enjoying a similar around-the-world adventure, snapped the couple before posting the pictures on their blog.

Fraud investigators, who had become suspicious of the pair, discovered the blog while searching on the internet for the Kismet.

At an earlier hearing, the court was told that Cole pretended to be her landlord when they were in fact living together.

Ian Wright, for Bacheta, said she had "acted out of greed" after getting divorced from her husband of 20 years.

Cole was working as a post master in Clase, Swansea, and Bacheta managed the newsagent side of the business.

Francis Jones, for Cole, said: "He is the process of selling the yacht."



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