Georgia business man Vinath Oudomsine spent the majority of his COVID business relief funding on a single Pokémon card. Following an investigation, Oudomsine was found guilty of grossly misappropriating funds, and sentenced to jail time. The coveted Charizard card he spent $57,000 on is now government property.
It would seem his sentencing is setting a precedent for others who’ve also misused these funds. Those who have been reported for misappropriating government grants are also under investigation. By using this case as a baseline, others will likely also get jail time.
31-year old Oudomsine was sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of Wire Fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen also fined him $10,000 as well as ordered him to pay restitution of $85,000, and to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.
There is no parole in the federal system.
David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia said, “Congress appropriated funding to assist small businesses struggling through the challenges of a global pandemic. Like moths to the flame, fraudsters like Oudomsine took advantage of these programs to line their own pockets – and with our law enforcement partners, we are holding him and others accountable for their greed.”
As described in court documents and testimony, starting on or around July 2020, Oudomsine applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) ostensibly for an “entertainment services” business in Dublin that Oudomsine claimed had 10 employees and gross revenues of $235,000 in the 12 months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of fraudulent representations on Oudomsine’s application, the SBA deposited $85,000 into Oudomsine’s bank account on Aug. 4, 2020. Oudomsine later used $57,789 of the funds to purchase a Pokémon trading card. Oudomsine agreed to forfeit the Pokémon card – Charizard – as part of the prosecution.
“COVID-19 disaster relief loans are issued by the government to help businesses struggling to survive during a pandemic, not to use for trivial collectible items,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This sentence highlights the FBI’s commitment to aggressively pursue anyone who would abuse taxpayer dollars and divert them from citizens who desperately need them.”