A man from Laurens County, Georgia, has been sentenced to a federal prison after admitting he had falsely claimed a COVID-19 disaster relief fund. The man then went on to purchase a collectible Charizard Pokémon trading card with the funds.
Prison Time for Using COVID EIDL Business Loan to Buy Rare Charizard Pokemon Card
Vinath Oudomsine was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay a restitution of $85,000, as well as three years of supervised release following his prison term.
The story highlights how vital it is for businesses claiming funding like the COVID-19 disaster relief loan, to be honest and transparent, as the price for dishonesty can be devastating.
As US Attorney David Estes, said in a statement about the case: “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.”
A statement from the Dept. of Justice reads: ” 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.”
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
In July 2020, Oudomsine applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) allegedly for an “entertainment services” business. He claimed the business had 10 employees and brought in a revenue of $235,000 in the 12 months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. On August 4, 2020, the SBA made a $85,000 deposit into Oudomsine’s bank account. He then went on to make a $57,789 purchase for a Pokémon trading card.
Abusing Relief Loan Systems
COVID-19 disaster relief loans have been issued by the US government as a means of helping business that were struggling as a result of the pandemic. As Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge at FBI Atlanta said, they are “not to use for trivial collectable items.”
“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,” said Wislar.
The story underlines the imperativeness that any financial support and assistance made available to small businesses during times of crisis should not be exploited and should be acquired with complete transparency and truthfulness. Fraudulent claims can not only damage a business’s or individual’s reputation, but they can lead to hefty fines, imprisonment, and, in the case of the man in Georgia, both.