Collector jailed after defrauding government to fuel his habit

A US man has been sentenced to three years in jail after he was caught defrauding the government to the tune of US$85,000 – which he used to buy a collectible trading card.

A US man has been sentenced to three years in jail after he was caught defrauding the government to the tune of US$85,000 – which he used to buy a collectible trading card.

Vinath Oudomsine, 31, illegally received the money from a government COVID relief program by lying about the number of employees hired by the business he claimed to own, as well as falsifying the business’s annual revenues.

Oudomsine then used US$57,789 (around $78,000) to purchase a rare Pokemon card featuring ‘Charizard’ – a fire-breathing dragon creature introduced in a 1996 Nintendo Game Boy title. 

Pokemon trading cards were released later that year, and although more than 30 billion have been printed, rarer ones can fetch hefty prices at auctions – although not as hefty a price as Oudomsine ultimately paid.

As well as being fined $10,000 and ordered to repay the US$85,000, the fraudster and would-be Pokemon master will serve out his sentence in a federal prison with no option for parole.

He also agreed to forfeit the card he went to such extreme lengths to purchase.

While Oudomsine’s experience is somewhat unique, it’s not uncommon for collectors and collectible investors to shell out eye-watering sums of money for items to which most consumers wouldn’t give a second thought.

And in 2021, those collectors and investors were spending more than usual. Records were smashed on prices paid for coins, comic books, vintage video games, VHS tapes and, yes, Pokemon cards.  

The collectibles craze is even being used by more enterprising businesses as a means to raise capital. Iconic guitar maker Gibson last year began offering music fans the chance to buy a portion of its prototype guitars, developed in partnership with famous players.

Under this fractional investment model, investors can buy one of 13,000 shares in one of the guitars on offer, at a price of US$5 each – and though they won’t get to hold on to the guitar, ownership does give them the right to have their photo taken with it at Gibson’s museum. 

Other surprising collectibles include Hot Wheels cars, Disney VHS tapes, old newspaper ads, and magazines published on or about historic days.


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