(p. A4) TOKYO — Residents of a rural Japanese town were each looking forward to receiving a $775 payment last month as part of a coronavirus pandemic stimulus program.
But a municipal official mistakenly wired the town of Abu’s entire Covid relief budget, nearly $360,000, to a single recipient on the list of low-income households eligible to receive the money. After promising to return the accidental payment, the police said, the man gambled it away.
The man, Sho Taguchi, 24, told the police that he had lost the money in online casinos, a police official in Yamaguchi Prefecture said by phone on Thursday [May 19, 2022]. The day before, the authorities arrested Mr. Taguchi, the official said. The charge: fraud.
Japan is not the only country where coronavirus relief money has been misappropriated. The fraud has been so widespread in the United States that the Justice Department recently appointed a prosecutor to go after it. People have been accused of buying a Pokémon card, a Lamborghini and other luxuries.
But Abu, population 2,952, may be the only town on earth where an entire Covid stimulus fund has vanished at the hands of an online gambler who received it through administrative error. The details of the case, and the rare attention from Japan’s national news media, have come as a shock to residents of the seaside town.
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(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 19, 2022, and has the title “A Town’s Covid Money Was Sent to One Man in Error. He Gambled It All Away.”)