WHEN a Hampshire mum split up with her husband she managed to survive with the help of vital benefits.
For 13 years carer Suzanna Mills legitimately claimed housing and council tax benefits, as well as income support.
But a reconciliation with her husband John turned the 45- year-old into a benefit cheat who carried out a £50,000 fraud on the state.
Mills had separated from husband John in 1997, Winchester Crown Court heard, and she initially legally claimed benefits.
He moved back in 2010 but Mills did not tell anyone she was no longer single, the court was told.As a result, over two years and eight months she illegally claimed £49,578.62, the court heard.
She pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to disclose a change in circumstances between March 19 2010 and November 7 2012.
Mills, of Fleming Road, Weeke, Winchester, told investigators that her husband was only using her home as a “c/o” address. When surveillance photographs showed his parked car outside she claimed he sometimes slept in the vehicle.
Nick Robinson, mitigating, said Mills was previously of good character. She has children including one six-year-old with special needs, he added.
Since her dishonesty was discovered she has been paying back £300 a month, which means she has about 12 years to go before she clears the total.
Sentencing, the judge, Mr Recorder Simon Foster, said: “It is a serious matter, but to your credit this took place by your doing nothing rather than doing something, although you allowed this state of affairs to go on from March 2010 to November 2012.”
The judge imposed a 12-month community order with 200 hours unpaid work. There was no order for costs.
Outside court Mills told the Daily Echo: “I’m very sorry for it, but I don’t want to talk about it.”