The Japanese man is gambling with the COVID Town Fund, which was sent to him by mistake

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TOKYO – The money was supposed to help COVID-19 for a low-income family in a small town in Japan, but it was mistakenly linked to a bank account of a resident who refused to return it and spent most of it on online gambling, police said.

Yamaguchi Prefectural Police said Shaw Taguchi, a 24-year-old unemployed resident of Abu, western Japan, was arrested on Wednesday.

Police said Thursday they have admitted to spending 46.3 million yen ($ 360,000) of taxpayers’ money on gambling. According to the Kyodo News Agency, the city has only 68,000 yen ($ 530) left in its bank account after withdrawing 34 times in just 10 days after making a mistake.

He has been arrested on suspicion of computer forgery. Taguchi declined the city’s request for a refund, police said.

The funds were COVID-19 subsidy which was deposited in his bank account in April. Abu was to receive a population of 3,372,100,000 yen ($ 780) for each of the 463 low-income families. But a city official mistakenly submitted a request to a financial institution for a single transfer of the total amount to Taguchi, whose name was first on the list of recipients, Kyodo News reported.

City officials are investigating separately how the wrong move went unnoticed, a mistake that triggered a wave of criticism from residents.

Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada told reporters on Thursday that the arrest was a step towards finding the money and hoped it would be fully recovered.

Taguchi was arrested on charges of transferring money to his alleged 4 million yen ($ 31,300) city account, believed to be an online gambling site. Police declined to say how much money he actually gambled, although he told them it was mostly.

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