A former executive at a Hollywood marketing firm that represents Instagram and YouTube influencers has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly stealing millions from his employer and spending the money on poker tournaments and cryptocurrency investments, officials said Thursday.
Dennis Blieden, 29, who lived in Santa Monica but now resides in Nevada, was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas to face charges related to his time as controller and vice president of accounting and finance at StyleHaul, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.
Blieden controlled the the firm’s bank accounts and routinely wired money to his personal accounts during his tenure from October 2015 to this March, officials allege.
StyleHaul shuttered its operations in the U.S. in March when it “simply couldn’t sustain profitability,” Variety reported. The company continues to operate in the U.K.
The indictment, which was returned Tuesday and unsealed Thursday, charges Blieden with 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two forfeiture counts.
Blieden could face a maximum sentence exceeding 200 years in federal prison if convicted as charged.
The defendant used the stolen money to enter and win professional poker tournaments, according to a motion requesting he remain in custody.
A May 2018 article on PokerNews.com says Blieden had begun competing in tournaments about 18 months before and did so only sporadically — “But when he plays, he really goes for it.”
He won the 2018 World Poker Tour Los Angeles Poker Classic — and a $1 million prize — using a “hyper-aggressive style,” the website reported.
In February 2018, shortly before he was fired from StyleHaul, Blieden entered into two poker tournaments with buy-ins at $52,000 and $103,000, authorities said.
Prosecutors allege Blieden wrote $1,204,000 in personal checks to poker players using money he stole from the company.
Another $8,473,734 was transferred to his cryptocurrency accounts, which he often used to fund online gambling, and $1,134,956 was used to pay off credit-card debt, officials said.
Blieden is accused of embezzling a total of $22 million.
He allegedly used various schemes to hide his crimes from his employer, including spending $230,000 in company funds to rent a condo in Rosarito, Mexico, by forging the signature of another StyleHaul executive and saying it was being used for business.
The defendant made his first court appearance Thursday in Las Vegas but will be arraigned in L.A. at a later date, officials said.