Former executive at influencer marketing firm StyleHaul accused of embezzling millions to play poker
A former executive at a digital marketing company that represents social media influencers is accused of embezzling $22 million from his employer and using the funds to enter professional poker tournaments and make cryptocurrency investments, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Dennis Blieden, 29, of Nevada was indicted Tuesday on 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and two counts of forfeiture.
The former Santa Monica resident worked as the controller and vice president of accounting and finance for Hollywood-based StyleHaul from October 2015 until March of this year, prosecutors said.
The company at one time managed 5,000 YouTube stars, many of them creators of fashion and beauty tutorials. It relocated to London in April.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, Blieden used his access to StyleHaul’s bank accounts to wire millions of dollars into his personal accounts.
Prosecutors said he transferred $8,473,734 to cryptocurrency accounts he controlled and used some of the funds to enter professional poker tournaments.
In March 2018, Blieden won the World Poker Tour’s L.A. Poker Classic, taking home a $1-million prize. On Feb. 21 and 22, shortly before he was dismissed from StyleHaul, he entered two poker tournaments that had buy-ins of $52,000 and $103,000, respectively, prosecutors said.
Blieden is accused of using an additional $1,204,000 in stolen funds to write checks directly to poker players, and $1,134,956 to pay off personal credit card debts, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said he falsified documents to cover up his crimes. Last May, he allegedly created a bogus lease for a condominium in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, that featured the forged signature of a StyleHaul executive, and used the document to claim the condo was being rented for business purposes.
He’s also accused of forging wire transfer letters from Western Union to make it appear as though he used some of the stolen money to pay legitimate debts to a client.
Blieden was taken into custody Wednesday and made an initial court appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. He’s expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles. If convicted of all charges, he faces more than 200 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.
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