'Runaway millionaires' sentenced

By Jamie Morton, APNZ


A man dubbed the "accidental millionaire'' will spend the next four years and seven months in prison for fleeing the country after a bank error gave him access to millions of dollars.


Hui 'Leo' Gao, 32, and Kara Hurring, 33, were sentenced today at the Rotorua District Court after previously admitting to charges that involved stealing $6.7 million.


Hurring was sentenced to nine months of home detention.


The court was told how Gao transferred cash into overseas bank accounts held by his parents before fleeing New Zealand.


According to the police summary of facts, days after applying for a $100,000 bank overdraft for his struggling Rotorua BP petrol station, Gao realised the bank had mistakenly given him a $10m limit.


A flatmate overheard him yelling in April 2009 "f***ing rich ... I've got $1m''.


Gao then set about transferring millions from his business account to personal accounts in his name and those of his parents.


A total of $6.78m was transferred. Some went through remittance companies to accounts in China and Hong Kong.


Gao also transferred more than $347,000 to casino accounts in the Asian gambling capital of Macau before fleeing New Zealand.

His de-facto partner and the mother of his child, Hurring, followed days later and opened a "player's account'' at the casino with her passport.


A further $2.179m was transferred to the same Macau casino. This time the "player's account'' was in the name of Gao's father, Alex Wang.


The couple's disappearance sparked an international manhunt involving Interpol and other overseas agencies.


Gao was arrested last September when he tried to cross from mainland China to Hong Kong and triggered an Interpol alert.


He did not oppose being extradited and was returned to New Zealand just before Christmas in the company of police.


Millions are still owing to the bank. According to police, there is an outstanding amount of almost $3.8m and authorities will be asking that Gao be ordered to repay the money when he is sentenced in August.


Gao had been living in Auckland on electronicaly monitored bail.


Hurring, 33, was arrested when she re-entered New Zealand earlier last year.


Following a trial at the Rotorua District Court in May, she was found guilty of 25 counts of theft, three counts of attempting to dishonestly use a documents and two counts of money laundering.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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