He Got the Whole Town's COVID Payments. Then He Vanished

Man in Japanese town of Abu took off with nearly $360K mistakenly transferred to him
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2022 9:20 AM CDT
He Got the Whole Town's COVID Payments. Then He Vanished
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/ilkaydede)

(Newser) – Last month, more than 450 households in a Japanese town in the Yamaguchi prefecture eagerly awaited COVID relief payments of about $770 each, designed to help families struggling due to the pandemic. One villager received all the payments in his account, however, and he's now disappeared, as has the money. SoraNews24 reports on the "curious case" out of Abu, which began April 8, when a formatting mistake on the government's online transfer order caused all 46.3 million yen for the townspeople, or about $358,000, to be dumped into the 24-year-old's account, simply because his name was at the top of the list.

The Asahi Shimbun notes that the mistake was caught that same day, and town officials let the man and the bank in question know about the error. For whatever reason, however, the officials didn't touch base again with the man until April 21—at which point he had some bad news for them. "All the funds [have] been transferred to an account at another financial institution," he's said to have revealed. "I cannot return the money back to the original account. I will make amends for my crime." A probe found that, over those two weeks, he'd been quietly taking out daily sums of money from his account to avoid detection, with all of the money drained from the account by April 21.

On May 12, the town sued the man for nearly $400,000—the amount taken, plus legal fees. However, taking advantage of yet another stretch of time in which he wasn't accounted for, the man had abandoned his home and fled to parts unknown by the time officials tried to contact him once more. Not much was known about him before he left, other than that he'd only moved there in October 2020 and had worked at a local store, a job he quit soon before vanishing. SoraNews24 notes the town will likely win its lawsuit against the on-the-lam man, but that after 10 years, the order to pay up will have expired. (Read more Japan stories.)

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