Dennis Blieden, a former Hollywood executive and a professional poker player, pleaded guilty to charges of embezzling $22 million from the company for which he had formerly worked.
Blieden was a controller and VP of accounting and finance at StyleHaul, a digital marketing company that represents influencers on social media. Back in July, Blieden was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud.
On November 22nd, Blieden pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
StyleHaul was a respectable digital video marketing company that managed influencers at social media. The company was based in Hollywood until March, when its parent company RTL Group discontinued the U.S. operations.
During his time at StyleHaul, Blieden had access to the company’s bank accounts and supposedly misused this authority to transfer the company’s funds to his personal bank accounts.
“The indictment further alleges that Blieden illicitly transferred $230,000 of StyleHaul’s funds for his own personal use by falsely representing that the condominium was being rented for business purposes for StyleHaul’s clients and employees”.
The defendant is charged with hiding his fraudulent activities in different ways, such as creating a fake lease in May 2018 in order to rent a condo in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, forging a signature from another StyleHaul director, and claiming that the condo was a StyleHaul’s property.
“To conceal his scheme, Blieden made fraudulent entries in StyleHaul’s accounting records, falsely representing that the illegal wire transfers he made were authorized payments of money due to StyleHaul clients,” said the attorney’s office.
“Blieden, who has entered and won professional poker tournaments, also frequently engaged in online gambling with crypto-currency he purchased with embezzled money,” according to court documents.
“During the course of the alleged scheme, Blieden used the money he stole from his employer 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.”
Disguising his actions has certainly contributed to the investigation and the following prosecution. Among many other illicit activities, Blieden faked financial records, performed wire transfers to his private account as “equity” withdrawals that were owed to him by the company, falsified letters from Western Union and distorted payments as if they were sent to customers rather than himself.
Right after his release from StyleHaul in February, Blieden participated in two poker tournaments for which the entry fees were $52,000 and $103,000, according to the court papers.
Blieden hopes that pleading guilty on 2 counts will help him avoid a maximum sentence of more than 200 years, however, the decision will be made at a sentencing hearing on March 20th,scheduled by U.S. district judge Andre Birotte Jr.
Given that Blieden pleaded guilty, the maximum sentence is 22 years of imprisonment, according to the statutory law.