New Zealand Bank Error Fugitives Foiled By Facebook Status Update

You know how it goes. You go out and have too many beers, then post a Facebook update with a bit too much information about your evening. Maybe you take it down once you sober up the next day, but not before the damage is done.

Then, if you’re Aroha Hurring of New Zealand, Interpol uses your status update to track down you, your sister, her boyfriend, and the millions of dollars his bank mistakenly deposited in his account.

Last week, Consumerist brought you the story of the struggling gas station owners who were the recipients of a $10,000,000 NZD bank error, then wired the money out of the country and hadn’t been heard from since.

Rotorua service station owners Leo Gao and his girlfriend Cara Young fled New Zealand with about $NZ3 million after they discovered the money in their bank account.

But their chances of being caught have increased after they were joined overseas by Ms Young’s sister, Aroha Hurring, who posted details about their location on her Facebook page.

Police believe the trio are in China after Ms Hurring foolishly updated her status to say she was drinking the local Asian beer and enjoying the heat.

Saying that they’ve been “foiled” is perhaps a little hasty. They haven’t been found yet, and things get a little bit more complicated seeing that New Zealand has no extradition treaty with China.

Protip: if you’re the subject of an international manhunt, keep your accomplices off social networking sites.

Facebook blunder betrays NZ millionaires [ABC] (Thanks, Kim!)

(Photo: lobsterstew)

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  1. Wombatish says:

    Wow.

    I’ve heard of getting caught skipping work, but getting (sort of) caught skipping town with millions of dollars.

    Turns out it really was -dumb- luck that got them the money in the first place.

  2. Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    Only a complete moron thinks they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives with $4M USD.

    • P.T.Wheatstraw says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: Actually you could probably live very easily on $4m for the rest of your life. In China you could live like a king on $4m for the rest of your life.

      • zyodei says:

        @P.T.Wheatstraw: Are you kidding me? It would be the easiest thing in the world, if you chose the right country. Hell, you could live fine in America forever on even $1M – just not high on the hog. In the third world, you’d be veeeeery comfortable.

        Space out $1M, with no interest, and you can draw ten times the average salary of someone in, say, Thailand for the rest of your life.

        That’s The only problem would be crossing borders, international travel, always looking over your shoulder…

    • Chmeeee says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: Maybe that complete moron knows how to invest. Put it in a conservative fund at 5% APY and you have $200,000/year to live on. That meets my definition of comfortable. Now if I can just find somebody to “accidently” give me millions of dollars.

      • Pixelantes Anonymous says:

        @Chmeeee: Except that they can’t…the minute they put that money anywhere else than in their socks, the Interpol will catch them.

        They can’t invest it, they can’t put it in a bank. They can’t buy anything of value with it. They’re thoroughly screwed.

        Unless they also invest in a fake identity.

        • Saisu Mimen says:

          @Pixelantes Anonymous:

          Unless they send “the Batman” into China, these guys are never going to see the inside of a court (unless they get high on hubris and decide to take a vacation into an extraditable country)

    • QuickBASIC says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous:
      I’d certainly have no problems living on that amount the rest of my life, but we all convince ourselves that we could live frugally with that much banked.

      I’m certain there are plenty of people that wouldn’t be able to constrain themselves.

      Google bankrupt lottery winner if you don’t believe me. =p

    • takes_so_little says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: I’m guessing this post is a joke. If not, the commenter must be thoroughly out of touch. As a schoolteacher, do you have any idea how long I’d have to work to make 4m?

      And yet, even at my modest salary, I have a house, two working cars, two deduct… er, kids, and zero debt outside of the mortgage.

      So yeah, $4m, about $3m more than I will ever make in my lifetime (if you include benefits), looks pretty doable to me!

      • Pixelantes Anonymous says:

        @takes_so_little: Well, I guess I should’ve put a disclaimer on it…

        Only a complete moron thinks they can live comfortably with $4M for the rest of lives while on the run from the law.

        That severely limits their options of using the money to live off the little egg nest they stole. Also the mere fact that they’re running from the law will cause additional costs they would otherwise not have. Like getting the f*** out of dodge whenever the police gets too close.

    • c_c says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous:
      Two words… compound interest.

      Also, you could definitely live comfortably in a country where shit costs less than the US.

    • Megalomania says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: I believe the ZN$3,000,000 is worth less than 4 million USD. At any rate, it’s quite a lot for a country such as China, though exchanging NZ$ for yen might not be that great an exchange rate when you’re trying to keep a low profile and have 3 million dollars to change.. Plus, as noted in the article, China does not have an extradition treaty with NZ and – if Gao is a Chinese citizen – they probably won’t give him to them regardless.

    • sburnap says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: So you are saying that you can’t live comfortably on a salary less than $100k?

      • Pixelantes Anonymous says:

        @sburnap: I could, if I was single with no kids.

        However, I’m not, and I live in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the world. So, no, I could most definitely not live comfortably on a salary less than $100K where I live.

    • lordargent says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous:

      That’s 4 million without income taxes. So more like 8 million.

      I’m about 32, let’s assume I would live to 72.

      That’s 40 years.

      That’s $100,000k a year tax free. Yeah, I can live on that.

      /I could live even better on that if I got the 4 million tax free without having to be a fugitive. Because I’d be sticking a bunch of that into risk free CDs and bonds. $4 million at 2% APR is nothing to scoff at.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: $3 million in NZD. It’s actually more like $1.8 million USD

      [www.google.com]

    • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous:

      The most ridiculous comment I’ve EVER read on this site.
      Sheer IGNORANCE. Cost of living in other countries can be far less then in the US.

      Costa Rica, live like a King, for about 7-10 thousand a year, A YEAR! I know people who spend that on vice alone.

      & there are so many more examples of this kind of situations around the world.

    • anduin says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous:
      this is a joke for sure because Ive gone backpacking in many asian countries where 200$ a month will get you 3 square meals a day and a place to stay… 4 million I could live like a king. Only in America do you overpay for crap.

    • Johnny Bauer says:

      @Pixelantes Anonymous: Hey buddy your a complete moron for thinking you cant live a comfortable life with 4 million US most people dont even make that their whole lives dumb ass. You must be some sheltered bell air/newport beach american that has no real concept of the real world.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Two million US and you’re eating what???

  4. dashjdot says:

    I always tell my young friends and family members to be careful what they post on Facebook. I bet Ms. Hurring’s going to have trouble getting a respectable job, too….

  5. SpruceStreetPhil - in a new Pine flavor says:

    Planning planning planning. If you’re going to do this you have to sit down and do it right. I’m just saying…

    Everyone knows facebook is the first place authorities go. People should really lock down their pages to only KNOWN friends (people you’ve met in “real” life). My friend got busted by my county’s alcohol control board for a post about a party on facebook.

  6. Moosehawk says:

    After reading this post and seeing how these people can (sort of) do it, I think if a bank accidentally dropped a few mil into my bank account, I’d really do it.

    • RodAox says:

      @Moosehawk: I would give it a shot as well…..I am not going to lie

    • krista says:

      @Moosehawk: I couldn’t imagine giving up all my friends and family, leaving my country, and living the rest of my life always worried about getting caught. I might consider it for a moment, but I doubt I would actually take the money and run.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @Moosehawk: Just be sure to remember what these criminals forgot or never learned: “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

    • trujunglist says:

      @Moosehawk:

      I asked my friend what he would do, and he’s the type of guy that I assumed would say take the money and gtfo of dodge. He looked at me like I was retarded for even asking the question and said “I’d immediately call them and make sure they got the money back.” I probed a bit and asked why he wouldn’t just take off to Mexico or something, and he said that it wasn’t worth it.
      Personally, I’d be all like see ya laters alligators, and don’t bother waiting for a postcard.

  7. RodAox says:

    He should have said “Partying in Antarctica like 1999″ to throw Interpol off their tracks too bad they probably hired robert langdon to crack the case……4 million USD stolen by 2 people….2 the third Fibonacci number!

  8. qxrt says:

    Did they track her down through cyber-sleuthing her facebook account, or is that facebook status message all they have to go by? The article doesn’t say. If the second, then maybe it’s a trick, and she’s smarter than other people thought. Seems awfully risky to assume that “Asia” means “China,” though…

    • SJActress says:

      @qxrt:

      True, but if they contact facebook, they may be able to narrow down their location…unless she was smart enough to use proxies, which I highly doubt.

    • EnergyTurtle says:

      If you notice, they said they were drinking the local Asian beer. If the cops can see the label, they can easily narrow that down to a fairly specific region (find out where they are distributed).

      One could also assume that they are in a more heavily populated area, since you wouldn’t expect them to dine on such fine food in some outlying farming coummunity.

  9. Ronin-Democrat says:

    nukin futs says it all.
    it is true, people want to be famous for doing nothing.

  10. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    They could be faking it with their facebook messages.

    • Petra says:

      @Charlotte Rae’s Web: That was my first thought…post something spilling your location and then remove it like it was a mistake, then laugh hysterically when you see news articles cropping up claiming you were stupid enough to tell the world you’re in China (when you’re really nowhere even close)

    • PsiCop says:

      @Charlotte Rae’s Web:

      That was my first thought. Interpol is expecting that folks who’ve skipped the country with an ill-gotten windfall, are suddenly going to be honest in their Facebook postings?

      It just doesn’t follow.

  11. shepd says:

    Why would China let these people go? If China lets them stay with their money, China has another $10 million and zero headaches.

    If they let them go, they still have few headaches, but $10 million less.

    • Megalomania says:

      @shepd: They don’t have 10 million, and it was New Zealand dollars, not USD. The point still stands that China is not likely to extradite.

  12. thedark1 says:

    I wonder who’s check the bank is gonna take this out of :P

  13. Mr_Mantastic says:

    I’m confused as to how they are fugitives. They put in for a loan, received 100 times more from the bank, wired the money the bank erroneously gave them, and left town. First off, isn’t this the bank’s problem? They screwed up. Why are the authorities involved. Secondly, they could legitimately just be on vacation. I know it’s probably far from the truth, it’s a possibility. Why is using an erroneous credit limit that you gained by no illegal means a crime?

    • henwy says:

      @Mr_Mantastic:

      Because you have no jutifiable reason to expect it’s really your money. If you request 10k and get 11k, you could argue (perhaps though you’d lose) that you thought it was legitimate. To request 10k and get 10 million and there’s no judge or jury in the world who would believe you honestly thought it was your money. Since the law depends on that, you’re screwed.

    • Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

      @Mr_Mantastic: Getting 100x the “credit limit” wouldn’t be a crime, but actually taking 100x the money you’re entitled to, withdrawing it in cash and then leaving the country pretty much comes under the heading of “stealing.”

      Leaving your new $50,000 Corvette unlocked with the keys in it is a mistake too, but it doesn’t entitle someone else to make off with it.

      • From the cubicle of PGibbons says:

        @☠Grяrяrяrяrя sings the doom song now!: >>>>Getting 100x the “credit limit” wouldn’t be a crime, but actually taking 100x the money you’re entitled to, withdrawing it in cash and then leaving the country pretty much comes under the heading of “stealing.”

        Didn’t seem to bother the authors of the bank bailouts in the good old USA… When the banks “make” money, they are rewarded for their prowess and wisdom. When it turns out to be 100x reserves and there’s nothing backing it up – then the people gotta bail them out. HEY – where’s the money you took on those phony paper profits? Oh – Asia, having a beer?

      • Mr_Mantastic says:

        @☠Grяrяrяrяrя sings the doom song now!: Let’s say I asked someone to borrow their Corvette, they say yes, and tell me it’ll be in my driveway with the keys in to tomorrow morning. Well the next morning there’s a McLaren F1 in my driveway with the keys in it. Ok, I just assume they upgraded me. So I drive it to Canada. I never said I wasn’t leaving the country, and they left it in my driveway with the keys in it.

  14. Meathamper says:

    Maybe they were in Chinatown… in LA.

  15. thaShady says:

    china….town. loves those egg rolls.

  16. morlo says:

    Sounds like they are of Chinese extraction, so it shouldn’t have been hard to guess where they would flee. God knows why they brought the sister, though.

  17. mariospants says:

    Well, if they met the sister in China (because she lives there) then it’s possible however:

    a) double check that IP, they could be lying about the “local asian beer” and/or
    b) the sister might be pretending to be with them in the first place.

  18. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    Can’t they invest their money safely in a Swiss bank account or a Caribbian off-shore account? That’s where most big-time thieves hide their ill gotten gains!

    • shanoaravendare says:

      @FuryOfFirestorm: I thought I heard something in the news recently about the Swiss banks no longer doing the anonymous accounts that they have been so well known for.

  19. mgy says:

    I’ve always dreamt that something like this would happen to me and I would get to live a life of adventure on the lam.

    They’re in China, you say?

  20. czetie says:

    @Pixelantes Anonymous: Depends how old you are. If I work till I’m 65 at my current salary (plausible — I’m near the top of my profession), I’ll make roughly another $2.5M before I retire, plus benefits. If you told me I could have $4M now, no tax, no strings, but no investment: yeah, I could quit and live exactly as well as I do now.

    Which, given your demonstrated financial acumen, I suspect is a lot better than you are living…

  21. From the cubicle of PGibbons says:

    Using an exchange rate of 1 NZD = 0.6205 USD, 3 million in NZ is about $1.86 million USD. Bonnie and Clyde had to work a hell of a lot harder for that amount of scratch.

    With the state of the current economies, with the banks held in such high regard, is it any wonder that these folks went for it?

  22. Morticia says:

    Here in NZ, Facebook has also been used by a judge to issue of court documents using Facebook on a man being sued over his business dealings.

    A woman on the solo parent benefit was also outed on Facebook when she made it known she was living with her boyfriend.
    [www.nzherald.co.nz]

    Getting back to the bank error, the worker who made the mistake is apparently verging on a breakdown over this. She had been in the banking industry for over 30 years. I feel for her!

  23. bibliophibian says:

    I have nothing of substance to say about the article, other than that I’ve been considering moving to a “more affordable” country when my son is grown – I am in a career field where telecommuting is the norm so in theory I should be able to work from anywhere. Problem is I’m a very picky eater and would probably starve to death in a year without access to American-style foods. And that leads me to the actual comment I came here to make:

    That bread looks really GOOD. Anyone have a likely recipe or brand-name? I’m really serious, here. I would go to extreme lengths and outrageous expenses for bread that tastes as good as that bread looks like it would taste.

  24. nacoran says:

    $4 million is enough to live on as long as you can get some sort of investment income from it, but it might not be enough for a young person starting out in life if there planning on just sitting on a stack of money. Remember, that money isn’t going to be worth as much even 10 years from now, let alone by the time you’re getting geriatric, especially if whatever currency you are holding in has even one or two periods of hyperinflation over the course of your lifetime.

  25. TheGuinnessTooth says:

    Maybe I’m just a youthful antiestablishmentarian, but I don’t see why this couple are criminals. To me the real criminal is the person that gave them the money. Technically didn’t he steal the money from the bank via his inability to do his job correctly, and give it away? The couple simply took money that had been given to them. Once it was given to them by the bank it was there money and they should be free to do what they please with it. Another example of laws protecting the mistakes of big business, and stomping on the little guy.

    • CFinWV says:

      @TheGuinnessTooth: Uh, no. Welcome to the real world where if you’re given something even by mistake you have to give it back. There is no parent standing over you saying “It’s ok Johnny, someone else made the mistake, you can keep it!” It doesn’t work that way, get used to disappointments.

  26. armandbrown says:

    What they should have done at the bank’s inquiry of the money is have the banks state their claim in writing and allow a review period of up to 3 weeks and after they thoroughly investigate the claim and find that the bank does infact own the money re-deposit in their account and charge a 5% administration fee.

  27. boxjockey68 says:

    ya know…no offense to the bank on this one, but I have made errors and I have had to live with them, I say the bank eats it (even though it won’t happen) that will teach them to be more careful in the future.

  28. vastrightwing says:

    Actually, I just got dirt cheap money from my bank legally. How, by borrowing it at under 5%. Considering that inflation will make that 5% interest rate go negative in a few short years, techinally, I got free money. The nice part is, I don’t have to leave the country to enjoy it.