A $58k Pokemon Card Got This COVID Fund Thief 3 Years In Prison

A man from Dublin, Georgia, has been sentenced to spend 36 months in federal prison for the most peculiar reason — spending almost $58,000 on a "Pokemon" trading card. While that might sound innocent enough, the reason 31-year old Vinath Oudomsine will spend 3 years in prison is that the money for the card came from a COVID-19 relief loan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses struggled with funding. Numerous lockdowns hit small business owners the hardest, with up to 65% of small companies in the United States reporting either a large or moderate negative effect on their business. Large corporations have been able to stay afloat — for the most part — but many smaller companies were forced to shut down.

Oudomsine pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was fined on top of having to repay the total amount that he was loaned. In July 2020, Oudomsine applied to the SBA, requesting an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Many small businesses requested this type of loan in the early days of COVID-19 lockdowns, so that in itself was not unusual. Oudomsine's business was part of the entertainment sector, allegedly had 10 employees, and he claimed it generated $235,000 in revenue in the year preceding the pandemic. 

As the DOJ release details, Oudomsine used the vast majority of the resulting loan to buy a "Pokemon" Charizard trading card, rather than to help his business.

The Charizard card was worth $58k and 3 years in prison

It seems that Vinath Oudomsine did not provide the SBA with an accurate representation of the state of his business. "As a result of fraudulent representations on Oudomsine's application, the SBA deposited $85,000 into Oudomsine's bank account on Aug. 4, 2020," the DOJ release states. "Congress appropriated funding to assist small businesses struggling through the challenges of a global pandemic," U.S. Attorney David Estes said. "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."

The Charizard card was purchased for $57,789, and although the DOJ doesn't specify which card it was, the only cards that sell for this kind of price are 1st edition holographic Charizards. According to several lists, such cards tend to sell for upwards of $25,000. However, the prices continue to rise each year, so it's possible that Oudomsine paid nearly $60k for his version. In any case, he agreed to surrender the card as part of the prosecution. There is no parole in the federal system, so Oudomsine will spend 3 years in prison for his wrongfully obtained Charizard card. He will also have to pay an extra fine of $10,000 and will be forced to return the $85,000 loan in full. It remains unclear whether Oudomsine used the remaining $25,000 of the loan to help his business and employees, as intended.