BENEFITS cheat Trudy Nelder has avoided a prison sentence, despite stealing more than £40,000 of taxpayers' money.
The mum-of-six failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions her husband was living with her and working at Cheltenham Borough Council, so that she could continue claiming benefits.
Nelder, 41, falsely claimed a total of £40,294.79 between January 12, 2009 and August 2, 2011. She was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with supervision, after admitting dishonestly obtaining the money the hearing at Gloucester Crown Court was told.
Nelder, of Lynworth Place, Cheltenham, was also ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work.
Prosecutor Fiona Dacosta told the court Nelder's husband Jeffrey was working at Cheltenham Borough Council while living with her.
Nelder had told the police her husband was a violent man and she wanted a divorce when questioned by officers, Ms Dacosta said.
Joe Maloney, defending Nelder, said her husband was a controlling man and she was looking after the six children, aged between 19 and nine, on her own.
He said: "She has no previous convictions and is in a financial mess. She is already being threatened by bailiffs.
"She is in debt and she has just buried her head in the sand on this."
Recorder Michael Selfe told her: "You have admitted to stealing £40,000 of public money. You knew perfectly well what you were doing and you carried on until you were caught. I have considered a custodial sentence may have an impact on the care of children, but there is a limit to how far you can rely on problems with child care."
He added: "I have, however, come to the conclusion I can suspend this sentence and you should understand that if you commit any further offence of any sort you will go to prison immediately."