The global life expectancy of men is 70-years of age; 75 for women – so it’s as odd as a sentence about a Phoenix that doesn’t rise from the ashes to hear of a 200-year prison sentence.
That’s the sentence Dennis Blieden could have received if a jury had found him guilty of 14-counts of wire fraud, identity theft and forfeiture.
Rewind to the beginning of 2018, and the name ‘Dennis Blieden’ was as unfamiliar to the poker community as Malaria bed nets to four-poster beds. The Cincinnati kid changed that when he took down the 493-entrant $10,000 World Poker Tour (WPT) Los Angeles Poker Classic.
The WPT lavished Blieden with $1m, and for most people, that’s life-changing money.
Not to Blieden.
Little did the world know, but Blieden had been secretly embezzling $22m from the company that had been paying him a monthly wage.
Blieden was the vice-president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul, a digital marketing company based in L.A., that provided ad-campaigns for behemoths such as Sephora, Maybelline and Walgreens.
StyleHaul closed for business in March, with a piece in Variety claiming, “StyleHaul, like many of its digital-video peers, simply couldn’t sustain profitability.”
Yeah, on that.
The L.A. court heard how Blieden abused his position to falsify wire transfers from Western Union to make it look like StyleHaul was paying clients. $1.2m in personal checks ended up in the bank accounts of poker players, $1.1m paid off Blieden’s credit cards, and he used $8.4m to gamble in the Bitcoin market. The rest went on personal expenses such as mounted deer heads, pole dancing poles and poker.
Blieden also created a fictitious lease for a condo in Rosarito Beach in Mexico, forging the signature of a fellow StyleHaul exec. He then transferred $230,000 to personal accounts, making it look like StyleHaul were using the condo for business purposes.
Court reports show that shortly before winning the big one in L.A., Blieden also entered a $50k and a $100k event, but this less than intrepid reporter didn’t find events of that magnitude on The Hendon Mob.
In the wake of his WPT win, Blieden entered the lottery for the Super High Roller Bowl (SHRB). That’s a $300,000 buy-in, folks. The $1m win, plus his admission to CardPlayer, in an exclusive interview, that he was an ‘avid investor’ in his spare time kept curiosity from killing the cat.
Unlike a cat, it seems Blieden doesn’t have nine lives.
“I don’t plan on turning pro, as I kept my day job and have no plans on quitting anytime soon,” Blieden told CardPlayer in a post-L.A. Poker Classic interview.
It looks like he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to improve his poker game, even if the only things he will win are cigarettes.
U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing. The maximum sentence is 22-years. Still, given that more people are living inside the U.S. Prison system than Iceland, Bahamas, Malta, Barbados, Samoa, St. Lucia, Vanuata, and Belize combined, you can take a reliable punt that he will see the sun sooner than expected.