Vinath Oudomsine allegedly lied to a US government loan program set up to provide funds to businesses affected by COVID-19. He claimed he ran an entertainment services business with ten employees and a turnover of $235,000 (£179,200). He subsequently received a loan of $85,000 (£64,800) in August 2020, however prosecutors said there was no such business.
Five months later, he spent $57,789 (£44,000) of the money on a first-edition shiny Charizard Pokémon card.
After pleading guilty to Wire Fraud, Oudomsine was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. He also has to pay back the loan in its entirety and has been fined an additional $10,000 (£7,600)
To make matters worse, the shiny Pokémon card has been seized by the US Government and will eventually be auctioned off.
Speaking to the NY Times, Xavier A. Cunningham, an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Georgia, said: “Our more typical criminal would use the money to buy real estate and cars, boats, planes.”
“I would say a Pokémon card is a quite novel scenario. We don’t inherently know what the market is for these cards. We had to hustle to find someone to give us a valuation for it.”
Money raised from the auction will apparently be returned to the Small Business Administration.
The intense demand for Pokémon trading cards, which rocketed up during the pandemic, has caused Target to temporarily suspend sales of game packs and other trading cards, citing worries about the safety of customers and store employees. https://t.co/deOH9mlGxD
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 14, 2021
Speaking about the case, Philip Wislar, a Special Agent from FBI Atlanta said: “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.”
Beckett, a prominent authentication company for collectibles, graded the card a 9.5 out of 10. However Charlie Hurlocker, a Pokémon card expert and dealer, said that the purchase was a bad investment. “He was buying at the peak of the market. It was a terrible short-term purchase. Nobody was willing to pay more than him.”
In February, the auction company Goldin announced that the “Illustrator” Pikachu Pokémon 1998 card had finally sold for £700,000 – a new world record.
Last year, a rare Blastoise card sold for just over £268,000 ($360,000 USD), certified as one of two presentation cards ever produced.
Last year, it was reported that Pokémon card prices skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the executive vice president of Texas-based Heritage Auctions, “When COVID-19 hit, a lot of Gen X and Millennials were looking for things to do, and we found a lot of these guys and girls started playing Pokémon again because they grew up with it.”