WPT Champ Dennis Blieden Gets 6.5 Years for Embezzling Millions; Cites Gambling Addiction


Dennis Blieden

Immediately after numerous delays because of to the COVID-19 pandemic, 31-calendar year-previous Dennis Blieden, who won the 2018 Globe Poker Tour (WPT) L.A. Poker Common for $1 million, was sentenced to 6.5 several years in federal prison this 7 days just after embezzling thousands and thousands (initially mentioned as $22 million by officers) from Los Angeles-primarily based electronic enterprise StyleHaul Inc.

In a 15-web site letter to the Honorable Choose André Birotte, Jr. of the Central District Court docket of California prior to sentencing, Blieden laid out his aspect of the story citing an serious gambling dependancy and desire to impress poker’s elite as contributing elements to his actions.

In 2019 as portion of a plea deal, Blieden pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated id theft for embezzling $2.7 million, substantially considerably less than the primary cost, from 2015 to 2019 as controller and vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul Inc. He did so by wiring enterprise funds to his personalized lender account, which he would then use to gamble and acquire cryptocurrency.

Blieden’s sentence is a little considerably less than that sought in a Government’s Sentencing Memorandum submitted on Might 26 the place prosecutors advocated for “102 months [8.5 years], 3 years’ supervised launch, and the imposition of an order for defendant to pay out $22,669,979.07 in restitution.”

When he been given a bit less time, Blieden will want to spend restitution.

Blieden Tells His Side of the Story

Represented by attorneys Gary Jay Kaufman and Noam Reiffman of The Kaufman Law Group, Blieden submitted a 15-web site handwritten letter “with the intention of offering you track record on who I was, who I am, and who I am capable of being. I also want to, to the ideal of my potential, describe what led to the situations of the crime I am currently being prosecuted for.”

In the letter, Blieden starts by supplying a heritage of his upbringing in which he claimed to have been launched to gambling at just a few several years previous when his father taught him how to rely applying the game of Blackjack as the suggests to do so.

Pages from Blieden's handwritten letter to the judge.
Webpages from Blieden’s handwritten letter to the decide.

At age 13, he explained he started out to play poker for genuine cash versus his father and brother. When in large school, the “Poker Boom” occurred, and like so many many others he fell in appreciate with the recreation even a lot more.

“I was obsessed, idolizing these individuals, and declaring that I would 1 working day be like them,” he wrote. From there, Blieden stated he commenced web hosting poker games and actively playing on the net poker, which he attributes to “the initially signals that I showed for issue gambling.”

Blieden statements that he deposited money applying his parent’s credit history playing cards devoid of authorization, then finding other means to do so at the time they found out and slash him off. According to him, it was in college or university “things begun to get out of hand.”

It was then he began making use of amphetamines and grew to become dependent. Following graduating from Ohio Point out with a diploma in accounting and finance, Blieden relocated to Los Angeles and in September of 2013 acquired a task with StyleHaul with an annual salary of around $65,000 a yr.

“I was paying most of my paychecks gambling, in addition getting out significant-curiosity payday financial loans,” he wrote. “These loans ended up totaling around $50,000 but I understood I could not question my mothers and fathers for enable again.”

Regardless of a close friend at StyleHaul encouraging him out, Blieden continued to gamble recklessly, in particular right after earning “a massive volume of revenue in crypto-currency.” It was at this time he entered the large-stakes poker local community.

“I joined several on the internet groups with some of the finest gamers in the sport, and for the very first time in my existence felt I was on the way to fulfilling a childhood goals … My desire to belong with these guys would inevitably be a single of my largest vices, as I would go to any stop to continue to climb and display them I belong … To me then, showing up to be prosperous and elite was a lot more significant than remaining either.”

“My ideas was to choose some revenue, gamble, fork out off my financial loans, then set back the first amounts I took from StyleHaul again without having ever being detected.”

Immediately after losing his savings and a large downswing in the crypto current market, Blieden’s crime at SytleHaul commenced.

“Being so deep in debt with no way to spend, I felt I just essential a larger bankroll and I could make every thing proper,” he wrote. “My programs was to acquire some income, gamble, pay back off my financial loans, then put again the unique amounts I took from StyleHaul back again without at any time staying detected.”

Of course, issues did not do the job out as he had planned. “The amounts I stole improved exponentially, and the pace in which I stole elevated.”

By the end of 2017, Blieden experienced stolen extra than $2.2 million, and it was a several months later on that he experienced his seven-determine WPT get, which he referenced in the letter.

“This, looking again, had a large impression on me mentally and was no doubt an accelerant in my gambling. I was now outwardly validated inside the poker community and from my friends as getting a expert gambler, so I did almost everything I could to maintain that status alive. My drive to belong was so robust and misguided that I thought participating in in the most significant achievable invest in-in online games would make me be additional accepted. I was becoming invited to new private games, where thousands and thousands of pounds had been on the table at a time, and my guess sizing for on the web gambling amplified to at the very least hundreds of 1000’s.”

As Blieden’s crimes continued, he stated that, at the time, he told himself if he ended up to ever get caught he would get his very own everyday living. In 2018, Blieden claimed he received more than $2 million on an on line slot machine only to eliminate it all again in just 48 hrs, which he claimed was the closest he arrived to suicide.

Even after getting caught and confessing to his crime in March 2019, Blieden continued to gamble, professing he owed a financial loan shark $800K. A month afterwards, his romantic relationship came to an finish when his girlfriend was subpoenaed by the FBI, and a few of months following that he traveled to Vegas to play the Planet Series of Poker. His journey did not previous extensive, however, as he was arrested by the FBI in his hotel space.

Blieden reported he used a several months in prison, for the duration of which time he played poker and tried meth for the initially time, and at some point got out on bond. He was then on residence arrest at his parent’s house in Ohio.

Just after turning 30 at the conclude of September 2019, Blieden claims to have gone to his initial-at any time Gambler’s Nameless conference, which eventually led to him trying to find procedure with Beit T’Shuvah in Los Angeles. He moved into Beit T’Shuvah as a resident in January 2020 and states that since then has been operating on himself, acknowledging that “if I come to be a much better man or woman, that gambling will not be some thing I even look at.”

Blieden concluded: “I am so remorseful and not that same gentleman as I create this currently. I am fully aware that some of the decisions I designed are unforgivable. I choose complete accountability for the crimes I fully commited. I completely do not blame or attempt to justification my steps with my addiction, or think my habit alone warrants a downward departure in my sentencing … I am in complete acceptance of regardless of what prison sentence I am supplied, and I vow to make the finest of my time inside of.”

Dennis Blieden
Dennis Blieden

Blieden’s Supporters Ship Letters to Decide

In accordance to yet another letter submitted with the court docket prior to sentencing by residential treatment method facility Beit T’Shuvah, Blieden entered The Proper Action Gambling System on January 6, 2020, and experienced “completed all stages of inpatient programming and moved to his own residence on March 4, 2021” but continued to find therapy with their “intensive outpatient program.”

The facility, which is primarily based in Judaism, has for above 30 many years “offered choices to incarceration, when suitable, that fulfill the two the protecting requirements of modern society and the offenders’ rehabilitative demands.”

The letter states: “In January 2020, Mr. Blieden arrived to us trying to get guidance for compulsive gambling. Immediately after a extensive assessment, it was clear he additional than experienced for procedure. He was quickly accepted for program participation and continues to be in superb standing. Like most gambling addicts, Mr. Blieden struggled with obsessive feelings. He experienced a deep wish for manage and a unfavorable marriage with income.”

As element of his cure, the letter reveals that Blieden fulfills weekly with an dependancy counselor, a non secular counselor, a therapist, and a case supervisor although participating in group remedy, attends 12-meetings, and consistently check detrimental for equally prescription drugs and alcoholic beverages.

“Mr. Blieden has begun this work and realizes nowadays that restoration is a lifetime-very long process and that he has harmed lots of men and women together the way.”

“I will include, Mr. Blieden is not the exact same male who entered our plan in excess of a single 12 months back,” Senior Different Sentencing Associate Janet Markowitz concluded.

Beit T’Shuvah Rabbi Micha’el Akiba, who recognized himself as the Religious Counsellor of Blieden, also submitted a sentencing letter exhibiting guidance.

“Today, Mr. Blieden is ready to actually acknowledge that the man or woman I very first satisfied at Beit T’Shuvah was not a great deal different than the guy who had been gambling and in jail prior to commencing the course of action of restoration. Currently, he can state that he was selfish, arrogant, egotistical, and manipulative. He admits that ‘it was no just about the gambling. It was considerably far more. It was a lifestyle dilemma and I was not conscious of any of this.’”

The letter continued: “Mr. Blieden has begun this operate and realizes right now that restoration is a life-extended process and that he has harmed several folks together the way. He states to me that he is in acceptance now of whatsoever the court docket would determine.”

Irrespective of Rabbi Micha’el Akiba’s request that Blieden “be in a spot in which he can continue on to do the perform of truthful self-exploration and continued growth,” the choose ultimately established that area would be a federal jail.

(Picture: World Poker Tour/Flickr)

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