Dennis Blieden, the winner of the 2018 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic for $1 million, was sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison earlier this month after embezzling millions from StyleHaul Inc., a digital company based in Los Angeles, according to Poker News. In 2019, Blieden pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for embezzling $2.7million from 2015 to 2019 as vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul Inc. Blieden would wire company money to his personal bank account, which he would then use to buy cryptocurrency and gamble.
The sentencing was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His sentence is less than what was sought in a Government's Sentencing Memorandum where prosecutors wanted him to be sentenced for 8.5 years, three years supervised released and an order for the defendant to pay $22,669,979.07 in restitution. Blieden submitted a 15-page letter "with the intention of giving you background on who I was, who I am, and who I am capable of being. I also want to, to the best of my ability, explain what led to the events of the crime I am being prosecuted for."
Former WPT champ Dennis Blieden heads to prison for 6.5 years & has to repay $22.6M that he embezzled. He's got some time on his hands to figure out how to pay that $$$. https://t.co/69sKXeI2lH #DennisBlieden #DontBlamePoker— Legal US Poker (@legal_poker) June 14, 2021
In the letter, Blieden went into detail about his life and having issues with gambling after getting a job at StyleHaul where he was making $65,000 per year. "I joined multiple online groups with some of the best players in the game, and for the first time in my life felt I was on the way to fulfilling a childhood dreams … My desire to belong with these guys would inevitably be one of my biggest vices, as I would go to any end to continue to climb and show them I belong … To me then, appearing to be successful and elite was more meaningful than being either."
After losing his savings and the crypto market downsizing, Blieden began to commit his crime. "Being so deep in debt with no way to pay, I felt I just needed a larger bankroll and I could make everything right," he wrote. "My plans was to take some money, gamble, pay off my loans, then put back the original amounts I took from StyleHaul back without ever being detected." Blieden was caught in March 2019 but was arrested by the FBI a few months later. After spending a few months in prison, Blieden was out on bond and on house arrest in Ohio.