A speedboat-owning businesswoman has been ordered to pay back more than £200,000 after committing one of the worst cases of fraud against Croydon Council.

Deirdre Hynes wrongly claimed almost £30,000 in housing benefit by lying about her extensive assets, which included homes in Croydon and Ireland and money spread across 23 bank accounts.

The 51-year-old, who ran three businesses including a company exporting tea to Japan, also claimed benefits of £6 a week, set aside for people in desperate need.

Hynes faces three years in jail unless she hands back the cash, after being found with assets of more than £320,000 – £200,000 of which has been classed as proceeds of crime because she could not account for its provenance.

She was handed the confiscation order at Croydon Crown court on December 15, having pleaded guilty to 11 counts of making false representations at the same court in March.

Hynes’s nine-year fraud dates back to 1996, when she declared herself a single person claiming income support, while renting a room in Melfort Road, Thornton Heath.

Two years later she completed a change of address form and made a new claim for housing benefit at Ingatestone Road, South Norwood, declaring she was still claiming income support.

In 1999 she declared she had changed her address again and made a new claim for the same benefit, but this time at 45 Sunny Bank. This time she declared she was working and earning £51 a week.

The council became suspicious after discovering she had an undeclared bank account with thousands of pounds being deposited, including a single payment for more than £57,000.

She later revealed the true scale of her wealth during an interview by the police’s payback unit, based in South Norwood.

Nathan Elvery, Croydon Council’s executive director of resources and customer services, said: “The details of this case, particularly the claim from a fund meant for people in the most desperate need, were particularly concerning.”

Her case is set to feature in the BBC’s Saints And Scroungers programme next month, which follows investigators as they hunt benefit thieves.