A RECONCILIATION with her husband turned Suzanna Mills into a benefits cheat.

She defrauded the system of nearly £50,000 when she failed to tell the authorities that she was no longer single.

Mills, 45, carer, of Fleming Road, Weeke, Winchester, had separated from husband John in 1997, the court heard, and she initially legally claimed housing benefit, income support and council tax benefit.

But he moved back in 2010 but Mills did not tell anyone. So for two years and eight months she illegally claimed £49,578.62, Winchester Crown 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 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 around 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 Hampshire Chronicle: “I’m very sorry for it, but I don’t want to talk about it.”