WPT Champ Dennis Blieden Sentenced to Six and a Half Years in Prison for $22million Embezzlement

1 month ago
14 Jun

Former World Poker Tour champion Dennis Blieden has been sentenced to more than six and a half years in prison for embezzling over $22million while in charge of accounting and finance at a digital marketing firm...

As we reported previously, the 31-year-old Cincinnati man – who scooped $1million in 2018 when he won the WPT L.A. Poker Classic – was facing 14 charges related to a $22million embezzlement.

Those charges consisted of 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two forfeiture counts for defrauding StyleHaul Inc while working as their controller and vice president of accounting and finance between October 2015 and March 2019.

Facing a possible 22 years in jail, Blieden pleaded guilty in November 2019 to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, thus reducing his sentence.

This week the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California revealed that Blieden “was sentenced today to 79 months in federal prison” and ordered “to pay $22,669,979 in restitution.”

Blieden’s gambling problem past

With two five-figure cashes, at the WSOP 2017 and the 2019 partypoker Live stop in Vegas, to add to his $1million win, outwardly things couldn’t have looked rosier for Blieden.

However, it was all based on a huge lie, having already stolen $millions from StyleHaul, the WPT win only tempting him to gamble more.

“I was now outwardly validated within the poker community and from my peers as being a professional gambler, so I did everything I could to keep that reputation alive,” Blieden revealed in a pre-sentencing report.

That report also saw him claim he was addicted to gambling after learning to count at blackjack aged just three, learning poker at 13 and stealing his parents credit cards to fund his online poker addiction while still a teenager.

How he carried out the massive fraud

Blieden’s scheme saw him abuse his position, using his access to the company’s bank accounts to “wire company money to his personal bank account.”

The stolen funds were then used for “personal expenses, gambling debt, and to fund his cryptocurrency accounts,” according to the DoJ indictment.

An FBI investigation showed that Blieden had attempted to cover his tracks by making “fraudulent entries” in the company accounts and “created fictitious wire transfer letters.”

He also created fictitious leases for a condominium rental in the name of StyleHaul Inc, which represents influencers on Instagram and YouTube, in order to illicitly transfer $230,000.

According to the prosecutors, led by Assistant United States Attorney Valerie L. Makarewicz of the Major Frauds Section, Blieden, “breached the trust and obligations owed to the young and perhaps unsophisticated YouTube, Instagram, and other social media influencers and creators, who earned money through their work on said platforms, that were needed to support their families.”

The sentencing memorandum added:

“Those clients relied upon the defendant to do his job, when instead, he stole millions (of dollars) from them.”

The embezzlement saw even more victims, StyleHaul first relocating from LA to London after the massive fraud was uncovered but later going bust.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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