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Georgia man pleads guilty after spending COVID loan on $57K rare Pokémon card

Which Pokémon card? That’s not disclosed

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Pokemon European International Championships Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

A Georgia man is facing wire fraud charges for allegedly using a COVID-19 government loan to purchase a rare $57,789 Pokémon card. According to The Telegraph of Macon, Georgia, the U.S. government charged Vinath Oudomsine on Oct. 19 in federal court in Georgia.

Oudomsine faces one count of wire fraud, which if convicted means up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Court documents say Oudomsine applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) in 2020, claiming he needed funding for a business in which he employed 10 workers.

EIDL loans, part of a huge pandemic relief plan Congress passed last year, were intended to pay a business’ workers and rent, but Oudomsine allegedly used $57,789 of the $85,000 he got to buy a rare Pokémon card.

Which Pokémon card? The federal government didn’t say in the initial court filing.

An attorney representing Oudomsine declined to comment. Polygon has reached out to a representative for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia for more information.

Either way, there aren’t that many Pokémon cards that command such a high price; this summer, Kotaku rounded up a list of the rarest and most valuable cards. The 10th card on that list, a holographic Rayquaza, sold for $45,100 in December 2020. A $60,065 dark Charizard also sold in October 2020.

But there are a number of other cards that command that price, too, especially following the Pokémon card boom that flooded card grading services and brought violence to Target. A holographic Charizard card — with the highest rating available — sold for more than $300,000 in 2021, but the market had been heating in the months prior, as influencers began buying up packs of cards to open on stream, hoping to pull rare cards. Card printing was also briefly halted during the pandemic, and some stores reported shortages of supply.

A first edition shadowless, holographic Charizard card with a 9.5 gem mint rating was sold for $57,789 — exactly the price quoted by the government in this case — at the PWCC Marketplace. Court documents suggest Oudomsine bought his Pokémon card “on or around Jan. 8, 2021.” The PWCC card that sold for $57,789 was bought on Dec. 28, 2020, according to the auction history. An identical card with the same rating later sold for $66,766 on Feb. 27, 2021.

Charizard cards with similar rating continue to be listed with similar pricing, give or take a few thousand.

Update (Oct. 29): Vinath Oudomsine pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.