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Ex-Hollywood executive pleads guilty to stealing $22M from his employer

A former Hollywood executive pleaded guilty on Friday to embezzling more than $22million from his employer and then spending the money on poker tournaments, personal expenses and online gambling. 

Dennis Blieden, 30, worked for StyleHaul Inc, a digital marketing company that represents influencers on Instagram and YouTube, as the controller and vice president of accounting and finance between October 2015 and March 2019.

During that time, Blieden, formerly of Santa Monica and now a resident of Cincinnati, abused his authority to wire company money to his personal bank account, according to the US Attorney’s Office Central District of California. 

Blieden, who had control over the company’s bank accounts as part of his job, then used the stolen money to pay for personal expenses and to fund his crypto-currency accounts.   

Dennis Blieden (pictured), 30, an ex-Hollywood executive pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling $22M from his employer, StyleHaul, and then spending the money on poker tournaments and online gambling

Blieden, 30, worked for StyleHaul Inc (file image), a digital marketing company that represents influencers on Instagram and YouTube, as the controller and vice president of accounting and finance between October 2015 and March 2019

Blieden, 30, worked for StyleHaul Inc (file image), a digital marketing company that represents influencers on Instagram and YouTube, as the controller and vice president of accounting and finance between October 2015 and March 2019

‘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,’ the attorney’s office said in a statement. 

Authorities said Blieden also ‘falsely indicated on one of StyleHaul’s bank accounts that wire transfers to his personal bank account were “equity” draws that the company owed him’.

He then allegedly created fake wire transfer letters that purported to be from Western Union and were designed to make it appear that he had caused wire transfers from StyleHaul to pay money it supposedly owed to a client.

In May 2018, Blieden ‘disguised his fraud by creating a fictitious lease’ for the rental of a condominium in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

That lease had a forged signature of a StyleHaul executive, according to the plea agreement. StyleHaul, a digital company once based in Hollywood, relocated to London earlier this year.

He admitted to illicitly transferring $230,000 of StyleHaul’s funds by falsely representing that the condominium was being rented for business purposes for the company’s clients and employees. 

‘It started small, in the thousands. It started out as monthly transactions and then sometimes became weekly,’ Blieden told StyleHaul investigators, according to documents obtained shortly after he was arrested in July.  

Blieden, who has entered and won professional poker tournaments, also frequently engaged in online gambling with crypto-currency he purchased with embezzled money, documents show.  

Blieden began to shine bright in the pro-poker world in March of 2018 (pictured) when he won the $1million first-place prize at the World Poker Tour's LA Poker Classic tournament, rising through a field of 493 players and beating a number of notable veterans in the process

Blieden began to shine bright in the pro-poker world in March of 2018 (pictured) when he won the $1million first-place prize at the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic tournament, rising through a field of 493 players and beating a number of notable veterans in the process

US District Judge André Birotte Jr scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing, at which time Blieden (pictured in 2018) will face a maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison. Blieden pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft

US District Judge André Birotte Jr scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing, at which time Blieden (pictured in 2018) will face a maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison. Blieden pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft

During the course of the alleged scheme, Blieden used 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 crypto-currency accounts, the attorney’s office said. 

Blieden began to shine bright in the pro-poker world in March of 2018 when he won the $1million first-place prize at the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic tournament, rising through a field of 493 players and beating a number of notable veterans in the process.

On February 21 and 22, shortly before his dismissal from StyleHaul, Blieden entered into two poker tournaments, where the buy-in amounts were $52,000 and $103,000, respectively, court papers show. 

Blieden was initially indicted on 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and two forfeiture counts following his arrest over the summer. 

At that time, he was facing a possible maximum sentence of more than 200 years.

On Friday, Blieden pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

US District Judge André Birotte Jr scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing, at which time Blieden will face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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