A former executive at StyleHaul Inc., a digital marketing company that represents “influencers” on YouTube and Instagram, faces arraignment in Los Angeles on an as-yet undetermined date on allegations of embezzling $22 million from his employer and using the stolen money for buy-ins at professional poker tournaments, crypto-currency investing, and other personal expenses.
Dennis Blieden, 29, formerly of Santa Monica and now living in Nevada, was taken into federal custody Wednesday in Las Vegas. The indictment charges him with 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two forfeiture counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Blieden made his initial court appearance Thursday in federal court in Las Vegas, and he will be arraigned on the indictment in Los Angeles at a later date.
According to the indictment, between October 2015 and March 2019, Blieden was the controller and vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul, a digital company once based in Hollywood, but which relocated to London in April. In this role, Blieden had control over the company’s bank accounts, and allegedly abused this authority to wire the company’s money to his personal bank accounts.
Blieden is charged with allegedly disguising his fraudulent behavior in various ways, including creating a fictitious lease in May 2018 for the rental of a condominium in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, which bore a forged signature of a StyleHaul executive, prosecutors said.
The indictment further alleges that Blieden illicitly transferred $230,000 of StyleHaul’s funds for his own personal use by falsely representing that the condominium was being rented for business purposes for StyleHaul’s clients and employees.
Blieden also created fictitious wire transfer letters purportedly from Western Union to make it falsely appear he had caused wire transfers from StyleHaul to a client to pay money due to the client, the indictment alleges.
Blieden, who has entered and won professional poker tournaments, also allegedly engaged in frequent online gambling with crypto-currency he purchased with embezzled money, according to the government’s motion requesting detention in this case.
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, according to court documents.
Shortly before his dismissal from StyleHaul, on Feb. 21 and 22, Blieden entered into two poker tournaments, in which the buy-in amounts were $52,000 and $103,000, respectively, court papers state.
If convicted of all charges, Blieden would face a possible life sentence in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.