New Zealand 'accidental millionaires' headed for jail, detention

When his bank accidentally plunked more than $8 million into his account instead of the $81,000 overdraft he had asked for, a New Zealand man and his girlfriend took the money -- and ran.

Hui Gao and Kara Hurring skipped the country for China three years ago, abandoning his struggling gas station and shifting the money into overseas accounts, New Zealand  news reports said. Reporters dubbed the couple "the accidental millionaires."

Now their joyride is over, with Gao headed for more than four years in prison and Hurring to be detained at home for nine months. 

Gao was arrested in Hong Kong last fall after being tagged as a wanted man by Interpol and pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft, according to New Zealand news reports. Hurring, who had returned to New Zealand months earlier after the couple had broken up, faced lesser charges that included money laundering. The Rotorua District Court handed down their sentences Friday.

Westpac Bank recovered some of the money, but more than $3 million is still outstanding, according to the Australian Associated Press. The two have not explained what happened to it.

In an interview with New Zealand television, Gao sounded chastened, but shed no light on how the millions had evaporated and said he simply couldn’t pay back the missing funds.

However, he did assure his interviewer that "if they put money in my bank account again, you know, I’ll just give it back."

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

 
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