Pokémon & Covid Relief Fraud | #phishing | #scams

Performers in Pikachu costumes dance at a Splash show and Pokemon Go Park event in Yokohama, Japan August 9, 2017. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Yes, that is a headline describing something that actually occurred in reality. And as the resident National Review (recovering) obsessive of the Japanese trading-card and video-game franchise about fictional creatures that fight one another at the behest of their human masters (who also quest to catch these creatures), I am obligated to note the case of Vinath Oudomsine. A 31-year-old man from Georgia, Oudomsine applied for a Covid-emergency loan from the Small Business Administration, supposedly to save his own small business as it was threatened by (idiotic) lockdowns. Instead . . . he used part of the $85,000 he received to buy a Charizard card. Per the DOJ press release:

Vinath Oudomsine, 31, of Dublin, Ga., was sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of Wire Fraud, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen also fined Oudomsine $10,000, 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.

“Congress appropriated funding to assist small businesses struggling through the challenges of a global pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “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.

It is no surprise to me whatsoever that someone tried to take advantage of the voluminous spigot of federal money turned on to redress the frenzied shutdown of society. There are undoubtedly far more pernicious examples of such behavior than this one, which I highlight mainly because I once shared Oudomsine’s presumed affinity for Pokémon. It’s no excuse, obviously. But perhaps something to make light of as we (I hope) emerge from this dark, confusing period of our national life.

Jack Butler is submissions editor at National Review Online.

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