Former WPT Champ Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $22 Million to Buy Crypto, Play Poker
A professional poker player and former executive at a Hollywood-based digital marketing firm pleaded last week guilty to embezzling more than $22 million from his former employer to buy cryptocurrency, gamble, lower debt load, and fund extravagant lifestyle.
The US Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California on Friday, November 22, announced that Dennis Blieden had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was discovered to have embezzled more than $22 million from his now former workplace over the course of nearly three and a half years.
Blieden served as Controller and Vice President of Accounting and Finance at StyleHaul Inc., a Hollywood-based digital marketing and talent agency that works with popular social media personalities. In that position, Blieden had access to and control over the firm’s domestic bank accounts. As mentioned above, he admitted to abusing his authority to “wire company money to his personal bank account.”
Blieden carried out his alleged scheme between October 2015 and March 2019. According to court documents, Blieden used the money he embezzled to “write $1,204,000 in personal checks to poker players, $1,134,956 was used to pay off his credit cards, and $8,473,734 was transferred to Blieden’s cryptocurrency accounts.”
In one of the most striking instances of his wrongdoings, Blieden created a fictitious lease for a sprawling condominium in Rosarito Beach, Mexico “by falsely representing that the condominium was being rented for business purposes for StyleHaul’s clients and employees.” That instance formed the basis of the aggravated identity theft charge.
Blieden Faces 22 Years in Federal Prison
Blieden’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place on March 20, 2020. He is facing a statutory sentence of up to 22 years in federal prison for his crime.
Blieden was arrested this past summer in Las Vegas. At the time of his arrest, he faced 14 charges, including 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two forfeiture counts. If he had been convicted of all 14 charges leveled against him, he could have faced more than 200 years in prison.
As mentioned above, aside from his career in digital marketing, Blieden is also a professional poker player. According to court documents, he used money stolen from his former employer to fund his entry in a $52,000 and $103,000 buy-in US Poker Open tournaments earlier this year.
Blieden took the poker world by storm in the spring of 2018 when he took down the 493-person field of the WPT LA Poker Classic Championship. The player claimed a $1 million first-place prize for his win. Prior to emerging victorious in that event, Blieden had had just three in-the-money finishes and had cashed under $25,000 in live tournament earnings.
Days before his arrest this summer, Blieden finished in the money in a WSOP event and a partypoker MILLIONS one. Both tournaments were held in Las Vegas.
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