Dennis Blieden has admitted to stealing millions while working as a Controller and Vice President of Accounting and Finance at StyleHaul between October 2015 and March 2019, splurging it on poker tournaments and online gambling.
StyleHaul was based in Hollywood. Its client list included Instagram and YouTube stars with millions of followers like Cameron Dallas, Zoella, and Joey Graceffa. It closed US operations in March this year.
Prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California alleging that Blieden handled the company’s bank accounts and illegally wired money from these accounts to his account.
Blieden was very good at poker, winning the 2018 World Poker Tour Los Angeles Poker Classic and $1M prize-money. In the same year, he took part in two other poker tournaments with buy-ins at $52,000 and $103,000. He was praised for his “hyper-aggressive” playing style.
Prosecutors also allege that Blieden wrote personal checks worth $1,204,000 to other poker players. The purpose behind writing those cheques has not ben stated.
Blieden used $8,473,734 to buy cryptocurrency, which he spent on on-line gambling sites. Blieden would have done well to remember the adage “The House always wins.” Fast transactions using cryptocurrency means that you can earn money faster, but you can also lose money at the same speed.
Lastly, Blieden used the stolen money to settle credit-card debt worth $1,134,956.
Blieden has admitted that in all, he stole a whopping $22M from his employer.
He forged the signature of another company employee to rent a condo in Rosarito, Mexico, for $230,000 on behalf of the company. He claimed to have rented it for business purposes.
Blieden was initially indicted for 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two forfeiture counts. He reached a deal with the prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 22 years in prison. He will be sentenced on March 20.
This case brings to the fore questions of accounting and auditing practices followed by businesses. The fact that even auditors could not catch Blieden’s theft shows that either they were just too incompetent or he was too shrewd for them. It also shows how a lack of oversight can bring down a business.