Dennis Blieden, a former World Poker Tour champion, has been sentenced to more than six and a half years in prison for embezzlement and identity theft.
Dennis Blieden Funded His Poker Game with Embezzled Money
On Wednesday, Dennis Blieden, a former World Poker Tour champion, received a sentence for 79 months (more than six and a half years) in prison for aggravated identity theft and wire fraud in leading to embezzlement of $22 million from StyleHaul, a California-based digital marketing company. Blieden worked at StyleHaul as the controller and vice president of accounting and finance from October 2015 to March 2019.
According to investigators, he used most of the money to play live and online poker and fund cryptocurrency accounts. He wrote more than $1.2 million in personal checks to poker players with money from his fraud within to company, looking for acceptance in the high-stake poker community. He also paid off debts and credit cards.
Blieden leased property in his company’s name in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, for clients and employees to use. He forged signatures to rent a condominium, which he used for his own needs. The forgery became the basis of his identity theft charge, as the rented property cost $230,000.
Blieden’s Sentence Reduced from 22 Years to 6 and a Half
The Poker champion pled guilty to the charges in 2019 and faced up to 22 years of prison time based on his plea deal.
On Wednesday, Central District of California judge André Birotte Jr. gave Blieden a lesser sentence after his first sentencing date in March 2020 was pushed back multiple times. The court also ordered Blieden to pay almost $22.7 million in restitution.
StyleHaul moved from Los Angeles to London shortly after Blieden’s arrest but shut down completely months after that.
One-time Poker Wonder
Dennis Blieden was “a one-time poker wonder,” landing $1 million from his first live entry at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic with a buy-in of $10,000. Before the championship, he had moderate earnings to around $25,000 from live tournaments.
In 2018 he won the WPT Champions Cup. Blieden went against Toby Lewis, a talented well-known professional poker player. Later, he also qualified for the Aria Super High Roller Bowl with a prize of $300,000, but he didn’t win anything.
In 2019 he attended two U.S. Poker Open events, around the same time he StyleHaul fired him. To his arrest, Blieden tried to fuel his poker career in the hopes of winning millions at live events. He was arrested in Las Vegas in 2019.