What would you do if the bank accidentally put $4.6 million in your account? If you answered “spend it as fast as possible!” you failed this test. A 21-year old woman thought she hit the jackpot when a bank error put millions in her account. A shopping spree and international criminal investigation followed.
14. A Simple Mistake
It was a simple error, but the dollar amount was so high it almost led to catastrophe for Sydney student Christina Xin Lee. This chemical engineering student opened a bank account with Westpac back when she turned 18 in 2012. Everything was normal until 2014, when an error by Westpac showed up as unlimited overdraft capacity in her account.
13. A 4.6 Million Error
The error meant that Lee had the ability to withdraw $4.6 million dollars. When Lee realized the bank’s error, she went on a shopping spree to rival any wealthy celebrity. She spent money on designer handbags, clothes, jewelry, phones, cameras, sunglasses, scarves, a deluxe vacuum cleaner and much, much more.
12. A Shopping Habit
Shopping quickly became an obsession for Lee. She visited up to five designer boutiques daily, and was known to drop up to $310,000 in a single visit. Over 11 months, 11 months, she allegedly made hundreds of transactions, overdrawing the astonishing amount of $4,653,333.02.
11. Flagged for Fraud
Westpac didn’t realize their error until April 7, 2015 when multiple transactions involving PayPal were flagged. They quickly froze Lee’s account and served her court orders to produce the money. Lee did not respond, so the bank declared her bankrupt and pursued debt collection.
10. You’ve Been Served
A debt collector visited Lee’s apartment in Rhodes seven times. She was served with a summons to appear in bankruptcy court. Lee didn’t come to court and then was declared an unregistered bankrupt in September.
9. Disappearing Act
Lee then disappeared. She left her apartment and no one knew where she went. Police issued warrants for her arrest. At around the same time, she applied for an emergency passport to return to Malaysia. Lee tried escape by flying from Sydney to Malaysia.
8. Cartier and Hermes
Police arrested Lee at Sydney Airport when she attempted to board a flight from Australia to Malaysia using an emergency-issued passport. The police seized 27 items worth about $1 million, including a Cartier bracelet, 16 Christian Dior handbags and four Hermes handbags.
7. A Mistake From 2013
The saga began in 2013, after an alleged fraud victim alerted Westpac that some money had been fraudulently paid into Lee’s account. Westpac immediately put the account into PCO status, freezing transactions, and also into “Manager 321 Status” which took it off the list of accounts being monitored.
6. The Transaction Wasn’t Fraudulent
One week later, the allegedly fraudulent transaction was deemed to be legitimate. The bank removed the PCO Status, but the Manager 321 Status was mistakenly not removed. This meant no one was monitoring the account. This permitted Lee to make unlimited withdrawals without any merchants rejecting them and without the bank being altered to overdrafts.
5. From $5.86 to $4,655,876.02
When Lee made her first overdraft withdrawal on July 22, 2014, her bank balance was $5.86. Westpac never caught up to the mistake until 2015, when her balance was a debit of $4,655,876.02. Lee must have known something was up, but she stayed silent.
4. 14 PayPal Transactions
On April 7, 2015, Lee made 14 transactions transferring money from Westpac to her PayPal account. The huge amount – $1,165,719.95 – triggered an alert with Westpac’s Product Risk unit.
3. A Debt of Over $.5 Million
Westpac retrieved the cash transferred to PayPal. Later, they obviously seized goods of over $1 million in value, but this left Lee with a huge debt of $3.5 million. The bank alerted the airports and the police that she may attempt to flee the country with such a huge debt.
2. Lies and Subterfuge
Lee didn’t exactly come clean when she was arrested, first alleging that her rich parents had been depositing money into her bank account. Westpac argued that she knew the terms and conditions on the account included agreeing that she would not overdraw the account, or attempt to flee the country with an enormous debt.
1. A Lucky Break
Lee looked to be headed for jail when she got a lucky break. A court dismissed similar charges against a man who withdrew $2.1 million from ATMs in a similar situation. Prosecutors felt they had no choice but to dismiss Lee’s case. Her lawyer said she would return to Malaysia, where she wanted to lead a normal life.