Man Who Accidentally Got All of Town's COVID Cash: It's Gone

The 24-year-old Japanese man was arrested on fraud charge
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2022 9:20 AM CDT
Gambler Sorry for Blowing Town's COVID Relief Fund
Media gather outside a police station following a report that police arrested a man who has allegedly gambled away 46.3 million yen ($360,000) in COVID-19 relief aid mistakenly deposited into his bank account in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, Thursday, May 19, 2022.   (Kyodo News via AP)

What the Japanese town of Abu knew was this: The $770 each COVID relief payments that were supposed to go to 463 low-income households last month mistakenly ended up in a 24-year-old villager's account. The mistake occurred April 8 and was identified that same day, but for weeks Sho Taguchi reportedly refused to return the money. Now, an answer to the strange mystery of what happened to the nearly $360,000, and some progress in the case. Taguchi was arrested Thursday on a fraud charge, and the BBC reports a lawyer for the man says the money has all been gambled away at online casino sites accessed via Taguchi's phone.

Taguchi is reportedly contrite—"I feel very sorry that I used it up"—and now says he has decided to pay the money back "bit by bit," per his lawyer, who also expressed doubt the unemployed man would be able to do so. The town is pressing forward with the lawsuit it filed last Thursday, and the New York Times quotes a town official as saying, "The arrest will help us to get closer to knowing the truth. His testimony will give us a steppingstone to retrieving the money." By Kyodo's numbers, that might not be possible. It reports only $530 remains in his account, per the AP. (More weird crimes stories.)

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