A man from Laurens County, Georgia, USA has been sentenced to 36 years in prison for fraudulently using COVID-19 relief funds to purchase a rare, shiny Charizard Pokémon card. The sentencing was announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a news release issued Monday.
According to the release published on Justice.gov, 31-year-old Vinath Oudomsine claimed to have a small business that supported 10 employees to receive an $85,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and then used most of the funds on the card. These loans were made as part of Congress’ pandemic relief plan, and intended to be used for businesses to pay rent and workers.
In December, the first-edition, shadowless, holographic Charizard (super rare, super shiny) card was purchased for $57,789 and has now been confiscated by the state, the DOJ said.
Oudomsine pleaded guilty to fraud and was jailed for three years in prison, three years of "supervised release" afterward, and is also required to pay a $10,000 fine on top of the $85,000 in restitution.
Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, Philip Wislar explained: "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. 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.”
This is not the only recent Pokémon card related crime. Last month, we reported about a thief who broke through the wall of a gaming store in Minnesota and stole around $250,000 worth of merchandise.
The man allegedly cleared out two storage rooms of various Pokémon card items including booster boxes worth upwards of $100 each.