A U.S. man has pleaded guilty to having embezzled millions from his former employer and splashing the funds on personal expenses and crypto-funded poker.
Dennis Blieden committed the crimes while an executive at StyleHaul Inc. – a firm that provided marketing services for social media “influencers.” According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, Blieden faces a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison after admitting wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
From October 2015 to March 2019, Blieden was controller and vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul, where he “abused” his control of company bank accounts to send money to his personal bank account, a plea agreement says. He used the stolen money to pay for personal expenses and his professional poker life, which he funded with cryptocurrency bought with the firm’s money.
Said to have taken part in, and won, poker tournaments, Blieden apparently used company money to buy in to two competitions with $52,000 and $103,000, respectively. $1,204,000 was also paid in personal checks to other poker players. He also gambled online, transferring $8,473,734 of StyleHaul cash to his crypto accounts to fund that habit.
In order to cover up the thefts, Blieden created fake entries in StyleHaul’s books disguising wire transfers to his account as legitimate payments to clients, or as equity payments owed to him by the firm, court documents indicate. He also faked letters supposedly from Western Union suggesting he’d made wire transfers to a client who was owed money.
The former exec further brought the charge of aggravated identity theft upon himself by faking that his employer kept a beach-side condo in Mexico for use by clients and staff, which involved him forging the signature of another exec at StyleHaul. He admitted stealing $230,000 through the fake perk, says the DoJ.
Blieden will face a sentencing hearing on March 20.