A slew of luxury items allegedly purchased using pandemic aid meant to keep struggling firms solvent, according to Justice Department news releases. A man was accused of using his loan money to go to strip joints. Another admitted to spending his money on a Lamborghini worth $318,270 (£231,270).
According to federal authorities, a man spent the most of his Covid-19 business loan on a $57,789 Pokémon card
However, it’s possible that Vinath Oudomsine is the sole person accused of spending his small-business financing on a single Pokémon card. Prosecutors claim the card cost the Georgia man $57,789 (£42,027), nearly two-thirds of his federal aid, which they said was based on bogus information. Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud last week as part of a federal investigation into the suspected misuse of large aid programmes that provided lifelines to businesses during the pandemic but also highlighted worries about frauds and waste. The Small Business Administration (SBA) overpaid $4.5 billion (£3.3 billion) in grants to self-employed people, according to a government watchdog, and there was “no system of controls in place to flag applications with faulty or illogical information” – including claims of up to 1 million employees. The SBA inspector general concluded earlier this year that the government agency pushed billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of procedures” that could have prevented inappropriate assistance.
According to the SBA inspector general, this resulted in “little confidence that loans were only made to eligible borrowers.” The SBA chastised President Donald Trump’s administration on Sunday, calling Oudomsine’s case “another example of the fraud that occurred from their inadequate standards.” The agency said in a statement that it worked with Congress and the inspector general under the Biden administration to implement antifraud procedures while also speeding up its processes. Defenders of the Minor Business Administration’s Covid-19 programmes have also stated that the flagged loans and grants were a small part of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid. According to court documents, Oudomsine’s counsel declined to comment on the matter on Sunday, and the defendant has yet to enter a plea. Prosecutors accused Oudomsine of misusing the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) programme for small firms damaged by the coronavirus outbreak, which wreaked havoc on the economy with shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. Officials stated that EIDL funding might be used for payroll, sick leave, and other business expenses such as rent.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced on Sunday that its Covid-19 EIDL programme has awarded more than $310 billion (£225 billion) to small companies and has been “essential” to their recovery from the pandemic. According to authorities, Oudomsine applied for a loan on July 14, 2020, for a business he said had ten employees and annual turnover of $235,000 (£170, 907). The SBA deposited $85,000 (£61,817) into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name the following month, according to court filings. Court documents provide scant details regarding the alleged Pokémon card purchase, such as the “Pocket Monster” it contained; instead, they merely state that Oudomsine purchased it “on or about” January 8 this year. Collector’s-item game cards can sell for a lot of money; one untouched box of first-edition Pokémon cards sold for over $400,000 (£290,906) this year.
Prosecutors are not commenting on the case beyond what is already known, according to Barry Paschal, a spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of Georgia. Early in the pandemic, there were warnings about scammers taking advantage of business assistance schemes. In July 2020, the SBA inspector general stated that it had been “inundated” with allegations regarding thousands of alleged EIDL loan and grant violations. A Georgia reality TV personality was accused in April 2020 with misusing more than $1.5 million (£1.09 million) in public funds for personal rather than corporate expenses, including a Rolls-Royce and $40,000 (£29,090.60) in child support. Following a worldwide search after the man faked his death, the first individual prosecuted for illegally soliciting PPP loans was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison.
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