'Single mother' property tycoon jailed for £28,000 fraud

'Single mother' property tycoon jailed for £28,000 fraud


A property tycoon who owned over five properties in the North of England has been jailed for benefit fraud.

Rachel Berkel, 40, claimed almost £28,000 in housing and tax benefits as well as income support. Yet she earned tens of thousands of pounds in profits by buying and selling houses.


To gain extra benefits Ms Berkel posed as a single mother, but was caught out by local authority Cheshire East Council. She is believed to have had up to £42,000 in her bank account whilst claiming benefits.


In Chester Crown Court she admitted five counts of benefits fraud – amounting to over £27,800 and was jailed for two months as a consequence.


She owned and rented homes in Knutsford in Cheshire as well as Cumbria and claimed benefits from three local authorities; Trafford, Cheshire East and South Lakeland.


The fraudster had faked a tenancy agreement to make it appear that she rented one of the properties which she in fact owned. It was this discovery – made by Cheshire East Council – that led to an investigation in 2008 where the full extent of her dishonesty was revealed.


She will now serve two months in prison and will be made to repay £17,500 of the total £27,800.


Wesley Fitzgerald, leader of Cheshire East Council, (who prosecuted Berkel), said: “Benefit fraud impacts on all of us. Yes there are people who must be supported through the various benefit schemes, but to do it in a dishonest way has got to be jumped upon by good detection work and I’m glad to see it’s working.”

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