Published: 12:30, 02 February 2014
A bar boss who defrauded Gravesham Borough Council out of more than £50,000 has walked free - after a judge said it was not in the public interest to jail her.
Anastasia Zinkevich has repaid the money with the help of her parents and was said to be struggling to keep The Riva Waterside Restaurant and Bar at Town Pier, West Street, Gravesend, going.
Judge Michael Carroll praised the 35-year-old businesswoman for continuing to work and provide employment for others.
Sentencing her to six months' imprisonment - suspended for two years - he told her: "You have not buried your head in the sand. I don't think it would be appropriate to consider unpaid work.
"Normally, I would say it is a good idea but it is not necessary that you do two jobs."
The judge also declined to order payment of any of the £5,696 costs, saying: "I don't want to upset the delicate balance that has been achieved in running the business."
Russian-born Zinkevich, of Wrotham Road, Gravesend, admitted fraud between August 2011 and August 2012.
She and others used 65 unauthorised credit cards to pay council bills. More than 160 separate payments were made covering insurance, rent, business rates and trade waste removal.
Prosecutor Christopher May said regular use was made of an automated card payment service for which only the card details were needed.
Banks eventually contacted the council and stopped all payments credited and reclaimed the amounts, totalling around £53,000.
Mr May said it was not suggested that Zinkevich was solely responsible.
Four others were prosecuted, but they had since fled back to Lithuania and there were no plans to extradite them.
"It is right to say the defendant has discharged all liabilities to the council," he said. "Many of these payments were clawed back but the actual amount has been repaid and the council is not out of pocket.
"That is, perhaps, a matter to her credit. In those circumstances the Crown do not seek confiscation proceedings."
The bar and restaurant opened in 2009.
It is run by Culinary Solutions, which has a 125-year lease.
Zinkevich, who has worked at top London restaurants, was said to be the proprietor.