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California's 'Octomom' pleads no contest to welfare fraud

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) - The California mother of 14 dubbed "Octomom" after she took fertility medication and gave birth to octuplets pleaded no contest in Los Angeles on Monday to welfare fraud and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, officials said.

Nadya Suleman, 39, also was sentenced to two years of probation in the case in which she was accused of failing to report income to welfare officials while receiving public assistance, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement.

Suleman was charged with failure to report nearly $30,000 in income from public appearances and videos, Lacey said. She initially faced up to five years and eight months in prison in the case. She entered her no-contest plea in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Her attorney, Arthur LaCilento, said that poor record-keeping led to the discrepancy.

"I don’t think she's a bad person who wanted to take advantage of the system," LaCilento said.

Suleman, who both sides say has made restitution by paying back $9,805 to the California Department of Health Care Services and $16,481 to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, pleaded no contest because she did not want to go through a drawn-out trial process, LaCilento said.

"We could have litigated this, but she didn’t want to go through a long trial and she wanted to resolve it quickly," he said.

In 2009, Suleman received an initial outpouring of public support as a single mother of newborn octuplets. But she became a staple of the tabloid press after it was revealed she had undergone fertility treatments when she already had six children. Her children were only the second set of octuplets known to have survived in the United States.

Since their birth, Suleman has struggled to make ends meet, attempting a singing career and releasing a pornographic video.

In 2012, she entered rehab to treat anxiety and filed for bankruptcy.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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