$318,000 Lamborghin i among litany of items allegedly bought with Covid aid

US Justice Department news releases document a litany of luxury items allegedly bought with pandemic aid meant to keep struggling businesses afloat.

ne man was charged with spending his loan money on strip clubs. Another pleaded guilty to using his funds for a $318,000 (€273,000) Lamborghini. But Vinath Oudomsine may be the only person accused of using his small-business loan on a single Pokémon card. Prosecutors say the card cost the Georgia man $57,789 – more than two-thirds of his federal aid, which officials say was based on false information.

The wire-fraud charge brought last week against Mr Oudomsine is part of a federal crackdown on alleged misuse of massive relief programmes that threw lifelines to businesses during the pandemic but also raised concerns about scams and waste.

A federal watchdog said this month that the Small Business Administration (SBA) overpaid $4bn in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information” – even claims of up to one million employees.

This year, the SBA inspector general concluded that the federal agency rushed out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Programme (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid. The result, according to the SBA inspector general, was “limited assurance that loans went to only eligible recipients”.

The SBA faulted the administration of President Donald Trump and called Mr Oudomsine’s case “another example of the fraud that resulted from their lax controls”. In a statement, the agency said that under the Biden administration it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add anti-fraud measures while speeding up its processes. Defenders of the SBA’s Covid-19 programmes have also argued that flagged loans and grants represented a small fraction of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid.

An attorney for Mr Oudomsine declined to comment on the case on Sunday, and the defendant has yet to enter a plea, according to court records.

Prosecutors accused Mr Oudomsine of abusing the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for small businesses suffering during the pandemic. EIDL funds, officials noted, could go toward payroll, sick leave and other business costs such as rent. (© Washington Post)

© Washington Post

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