"Octomom" Nadya Suleman, the 38-year-old mother with 14 children, including a set of octuplets, pleaded not guilty Friday to felony charges that she lied about her income on welfare applications.
Prosecutors said earlier this month that Suleman received $16,481 in state welfare payments during the first half of 2013 that she would not have been sent had she properly disclosed nearly $30,000 in earnings during that same period.
Suleman, who drew international attention in 2009 as only the second U.S. woman to successfully give birth to octuplets, earned the money from personal appearances and video royalties, prosecutors said. They charged her with one count of aid by misrepresentation and two counts of perjury by false application for aid.
Suleman was not immediately arrested but was ordered to appear in court Friday.
Wearing a black suit with her hair back in a bun, Suleman stared straight ahead as she moved about the courthouse with her attorney, Art LaCilento. A judge released her on her own recognizance.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years, eight months in custody. She’s due back in court Feb. 3.
L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Clark said an anonymous tip pointed welfare fraud investigators to Suleman's case. He said similar cases often end in a settlement, especially if the suspect is able to pay the money back.
"I don't think she's going to get five years," he said of Suleman's possible punishment. "She has 14 children."
After the octuplets were born, Suleman was widely criticized because she had used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant. She was on public assistance at the time.
Suleman's fertility doctor, Michael Kamrava, later had his medical license revoked by the state medical board. The panel ruled that Kamrava “did not exercise sound judgment" in the transfer of 12 embryos to Suleman.