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WPT Champ Dennis Blieden Will get 6.5 Years for Embezzling Millions; Cites Playing Addiction

Chad Holloway

Dennis Blieden

After many delays as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, 31-year-veteran Dennis Blieden, who obtained the 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) L.A. Poker Classic for $1 million, modified into as soon as sentenced to 6.5 years in federal penal advanced this week after embezzling thousands and thousands (firstly acknowledged as $22 million by officials) from Los Angeles-essentially based fully digital company StyleHaul Inc.

In a 15-web page letter to the Gracious Judge André Birotte, Jr. of the Central District Court of California ahead of sentencing, Blieden laid out his facet of the story citing an indecent playing dependancy and desire to impress poker’s elite as contributing components to his actions.

In 2019 as portion of a plea deal, Blieden pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for embezzling $2.7 million, noteworthy no longer up to the customary save, from 2015 to 2019 as controller and vp of accounting and finance for StyleHaul Inc. He did so by wiring company money to his deepest monetary institution story, which he would then utilize to gamble and design shut cryptocurrency.

Blieden’s sentence is somewhat no longer up to that sought in a Govt’s Sentencing Memorandum filed on Can also honest 26 the save prosecutors advocated for “102 months [8.5 years], three years’ supervised start, and the imposition of an show for defendant to pay $22,669,979.07 in restitution.”

Whereas he bought a little bit of less time, Blieden would possibly want to pay restitution.

Blieden Tells His Facet of the Memoir

Represented by attorneys Gary Jay Kaufman and Noam Reiffman of The Kaufman Law Neighborhood, Blieden submitted a 15-web page handwritten letter “with the draw of giving you background on who I modified into as soon as, who I’m, and who I will being. I moreover need to, to the finest of my capacity, existing what ended in the events of the crime I’m being prosecuted for.”

In the letter, Blieden begins by providing a historical past of his upbringing wherein he claimed to had been launched to playing at brilliant three years veteran when his father taught him how to depend the utilize of the sport of Blackjack as the style to form so.

Pages from Blieden's handwritten letter to the judge.
Pages from Blieden’s handwritten letter to the design shut.

At age 13, he acknowledged he started to play poker for staunch money in opposition to his father and brother. Whereas in high college, the “Poker Snort” came about, and care for so many others he fell in treasure with the sport even extra.

“I modified into as soon as obsessed, idolizing these folk, and declaring that I would sooner or later be care for them,” he wrote. From there, Blieden acknowledged he started hosting poker games and playing online poker, which he attributes to “the first indicators that I confirmed for boom playing.”

Blieden claims that he deposited funds the utilize of his mother or father’s bank cards without permission, then discovering other ways to form so as soon as they stumbled on out and sever him off. Primarily based fully fully on him, it modified into as soon as in college “things started to win out of hand.”

It modified into as soon as then he started the utilize of amphetamines and beget became dependent. After graduating from Ohio Say with a level in accounting and finance, Blieden relocated to Los Angeles and in September of 2013 bought a job with StyleHaul with an annual wage of roughly $65,000 a year.

“I modified into as soon as spending most of my paychecks playing, plus doing away with high-curiosity payday loans,” he wrote. “These loans ended up totaling spherical $50,000 but I knew I would also no longer request my oldsters for attend all all over again.”

Despite a buddy at StyleHaul serving to him out, Blieden persevered to gamble recklessly, specifically after making “a huge amount of cash in crypto-forex.” It modified into as soon as at the moment he entered the high-stakes poker neighborhood.

“I joined extra than one online groups with one of the well-known finest gamers in the sport, and for the first time in my existence felt I modified into as soon as on the style to tremendous a childhood needs … My desire to belong with these guys would inevitably be one of my ideal vices, as I would spin to any discontinuance to proceed to climb and uncover them I belong … To me then, acting to set apart success and elite modified into as soon as extra most fundamental than being either.”

“My plans modified into as soon as to design shut some money, gamble, repay my loans, then set apart aid the customary amounts I took from StyleHaul aid without ever being detected.”

After dropping his financial savings and a staunch downswing in the crypto market, Blieden’s crime at SytleHaul started.

“Being so deep in debt without a manner to pay, I felt I brilliant fundamental a increased bankroll and I would also beget all the pieces brilliant,” he wrote. “My plans modified into as soon as to design shut some money, gamble, repay my loans, then set apart aid the customary amounts I took from StyleHaul aid without ever being detected.”

Clearly, things didn’t work out as he had planned. “The amounts I stole increased exponentially, and the rate wherein I stole increased.”

By the discontinuance of 2017, Blieden had stolen bigger than $2.2 million, and it modified into as soon as a number of months later that he had his seven-figure WPT purchase, which he referenced in the letter.

“This, looking out aid, had a huge impact on me mentally and modified into as soon as no query an accelerant in my playing. I modified into as soon as now outwardly validated interior the poker neighborhood and from my friends as being a genuine gambler, so I did all the pieces I would also to design shut that reputation alive. My desire to belong modified into as soon as so solid and misguided that I believed playing in the ideal that that you just must presumably mediate design shut-in games would beget me be extra current. I modified into as soon as being invited to recent deepest games, the save thousands and thousands of dollars were on the table at a time, and my bet sizing for online playing increased to no longer no longer up to many of of thousands.”

As Blieden’s crimes persevered, he acknowledged that, at the time, he advised himself if he were to ever win caught he would design shut his receive existence. In 2018, Blieden acknowledged he obtained over $2 million on a web slot machine completely to lose it all aid interior 48 hours, which he claimed modified into as soon as the closest he came to suicide.

Even after being caught and confessing to his crime in March 2019, Blieden persevered to gamble, claiming he owed a loan shark $800K. A month later, his relationship came to an discontinuance when his girlfriend modified into as soon as subpoenaed by the FBI, and some months after that he traveled to Vegas to play the World Series of Poker. His time out didn’t closing long, however, as he modified into as soon as arrested by the FBI in his resort room.

Blieden acknowledged he spent a number of months in penal advanced, right through which time he performed poker and tried meth for the first time, and ultimately bought out on bond. He modified into as soon as then on dwelling arrest at his mother or father’s home in Ohio.

After turning 30 at the discontinuance of September 2019, Blieden claims to beget long gone to his first-ever Gambler’s Anonymous assembly, which ultimately ended in him searching for medication 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 working on himself, realizing that “if I turn into a bigger person, that playing could also no longer be something I even design shut into story.”

Blieden concluded: “I’m so remorseful and no longer that same man as I write this this day. I’m fully mindful that one of the well-known choices I made are unforgivable. I design shut beefy responsibility for the crimes I committed. I fully form no longer blame or try to excuse my actions with my dependancy, or mediate my dependancy alone warrants a downward departure in my sentencing … I’m in beefy acceptance of whatever penal advanced sentence I’m given, and I teach to beget the finest of my time interior.”

Dennis Blieden
Dennis Blieden

Blieden’s Supporters Ship Letters to Judge

Primarily based fully fully on one other letter filed with the court ahead of sentencing by residential medication facility Beit T’Shuvah, Blieden entered The Simply Motion Playing Program on January 6, 2020, and had “completed all ranges of inpatient programming and moved to his receive space on March 4, 2021” but persevered to gaze medication with their “intensive outpatient program.”

The facility, which relies in Judaism, has for over 30 years “equipped choices to incarceration, when appropriate, that meet each and each the conserving needs of society and the offenders’ rehabilitative needs.”

The letter states: “In January 2020, Mr. Blieden came to us searching for assistance for compulsive playing. After a thorough review, it modified into as soon as certain he bigger than pleasurable for medication. He modified into as soon as at as soon as popular for program participation and remains in honest standing. Treasure most playing addicts, Mr. Blieden struggled with obsessive solutions. He had a deep desire for adjust and a detrimental relationship with money.”

As portion of his medication, the letter unearths that Blieden meets weekly with an dependancy counselor, a non secular counselor, a therapist, and a case supervisor whereas participating in community therapy, attends 12-meetings, and continually take a look at detrimental for each and each medication and alcohol.

“Mr. Blieden has begun this work and realizes this day that recovery is a existence-long project and that he has harmed many folk along the style.”

“I will add, Mr. Blieden is rarely any longer the same man who entered our program over 365 days in the past,” Senior Substitute Sentencing Affiliate Janet Markowitz concluded.

Beit T’Shuvah Rabbi Micha’el Akiba, who acknowledged himself as the Spiritual Counsellor of Blieden, moreover submitted a sentencing letter displaying strengthen.

“Nowadays, Mr. Blieden is able to truly admit that the person I first met at Beit T’Shuvah modified into as soon as no longer noteworthy quite a number of than the one who had been playing and in detention heart ahead of initiating the project of recovery. Nowadays, he can enlighten that he modified into as soon as selfish, smug, egotistical, and manipulative. He admits that ‘it modified into as soon as no brilliant referring to the playing. It modified into as soon as noteworthy extra. It modified into as soon as a existence boom and I wasn’t mindful of any of this.’”

The letter persevered: “Mr. Blieden has begun this work and realizes this day that recovery is a existence-long project and that he has harmed many folk along the style. He states to me that he’s in acceptance this day of whatever the court would resolve.”

Despite Rabbi Micha’el Akiba’s query that Blieden “be in a enlighten wherein he can proceed to form the work of lawful self-exploration and persevered boost,” the design shut one way or the opposite obvious that enlighten would be a federal penal advanced.

(Image: World Poker Tour/Flickr)