Facing lengthy prison sentence
Dennis Blieden has pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. The 30-year-old professional poker player and tech exec had been accused of embezzling over $22m from his former employer, StyleHaul.
A large portion of the solen funds was used to participate in poker events, play in online poker cash games, and invested in cryptocurrencies.
abused his role as the vice president of accounting and finance at digital marketing company StyleHaul
He abused his role as the vice president of accounting and finance at digital marketing company StyleHaul to steal these funds. The company in question represents the likes of Youtube and Instagram influencers. Blieden held this role from October 2015 until March 2019.
Blieden was a resident of Santa Monica during his time working at the company, but he is now living in Cincinnati, Ohio. The legal case he faces has been filed with the Central District of California’s US Attorney’s Office.
Tried to cover his tracks
Through his role, Blieden had access to the company’s bank accounts. He would wire funds to his personal accounts and then use the funds for a variety of personal expenses.
In an attempt to cover his tracks, Blieden made fake entries into the company’s books. He said that these entries were falsely saying that the transfers he made to himself were funds that were owed to clients of the company.
After transferring the funds, Blieden would compose fake letters for wire transfers, pretending to be from the Western Union. This was done to pretend that the funds had been passed onto clients. One of the transactions stated that the money was for “equity draws that the company owed him”.
In May 2018, he even used company funds to lease a condo in Mexico. He forged one of the company executive’s signatures on the lease. Subsequently, Blieden then transferred $230,000 of company funds by saying that the Mexico property was being rented for the employees and clients of the company.
After being arrested in July 2019, Blieden spoke about how his fraudulent activity became so pronounced. He said:
It started small, in the thousands. It started out as monthly transactions and then sometimes became weekly.”
Breakdown of the embezzled funds
Court documents detail how the embezzled funds were used by Blieden.
Blieden made a name for himself in the professional poker world in March 2018 after winning the L.A. Poker Classic, a World Poker Tour (WTP) event. He overcame a field of 493 players, which included many veterans of the game, to scoop $1m.
Not long before his fraud was uncovered, Blieden bought into two poker events. One of the buy-ins was for $52,000, with the other being for $103,000.
What happens next?
Blieden’s initial indictment saw him charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, a single count of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of forfeiture.
The maximum sentence for all of these charges is over 200 years in prison. As Blieden has now pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and a single count of aggravated identity theft, he faces a federal prison sentence of up to 22 years.
U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. has scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing.