LOS ANGELES – A former executive at StyleHaul Inc pleaded guilty on Friday to federal criminal charges for embezzling more than $22 million from his employer and then using the stolen money for personal expenses and crypto-currency gambling.
Dennis Blieden, 30, formerly of Santa Monica and now a resident of Cincinnati, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to his plea agreement, between October 2015 and March 2019, Blieden was the controller and vice president of accounting and finance for StyleHaul, digital marketing company that represents “influencers” on Instagram and YouTube. It was once based in Hollywood, but relocated to London earlier this year.
As part of his job, Blieden had control over the company’s bank accounts, and he abused this authority to wire company money to his personal bank account, according to a plea agreement. Blieden then used the stolen money to pay for personal expenses and to fund his crypto-currency accounts.
To conceal his scheme, Blieden made fraudulent entries in StyleHaul’s accounting records, falsely representing that the illegal wire transfers he made were authorized payments of money due to StyleHaul clients. Blieden also falsely indicated on one of StyleHaul’s bank accounts that wire transfers to Blieden’s personal bank account were “equity” draws that the company owed him, according to court documents. Furthermore, Blieden created fictitious wire transfer letters that purported to be from Western Union and were designed to make it appear that he had caused wire transfers from StyleHaul to pay money it purportedly owed to a client, the plea agreement states.
Blieden also disguised his fraud by creating a fictitious lease in May 2018 for the rental of a condominium in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, which bore a forged signature of a StyleHaul executive, according to the plea agreement. Blieden admitted that he illicitly transferred $230,000 of StyleHaul’s funds by falsely representing that the condominium was being rented for business purposes for StyleHaul’s clients and employees. This conduct forms the basis of the aggravated identity theft charge.
Blieden, who has entered and won professional poker tournaments, also frequently engaged in online gambling with crypto-currency he purchased with embezzled money, according to court documents. During the course of the alleged scheme, Blieden used money he stole from his employer to write $1,204,000 in personal checks to poker players, $1,134,956 was used to pay off his credit cards, and $8,473,734 was transferred to Blieden’s crypto-currency accounts, according to court documents.
On February 21 and 22, shortly before his dismissal from StyleHaul, Blieden entered into two poker tournaments, wherein the buy-in amounts were $52,000 and $103,000, respectively, court papers state.
United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. scheduled a March 20 sentencing hearing, at which time Blieden will face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this case. This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Valerie L. Makarewicz of the Major Frauds Section.
21 Workers Test Positive for Coronavirus at Rock n Roll Ralphs
HOLLYWOOD (KTLA) — Workers rallied Friday outside a Ralphs store in Hollywood where 21 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The group called on the store to take more aggressive action when staff test positive for the virus, and to ramp up efforts to protect the grocery store employees, who are considered essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
They said they speak for thousands of workers who are afraid they aren’t getting enough protection as the virus continues to spread countywide, infecting more than 24,000 as of Friday.
The Ralphs at 7257 W. Sunset Blvd. has had an outbreak involving several workers who tested positive for the virus, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, which lists businesses and […]
‘Stay Put, Order In’ and Dine With Friends on Zoom, Says Mayor
WEST HOLLYWOOD — WeHo is home to some of the best restaurants in the world and our community members are used to gathering around restaurant tables and enjoying meals together. Now, there’s an opportunity to, instead, gather around kitchen tables at home and enjoy a meal (or many!) while supporting our local restaurants.
“One of the worst things about the Safer At Home directive is being disconnected from friends, neighbors, and the city around us,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “Don’t be alone if you don’t have to be – take advantage of the technology out there and invite a friend to Zoom in for Ziti or share some Farfalle over FaceTime.”
Mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends, family, and loved ones using virtual teleconferencing technology, while partaking in your favorite delivered or takeout food.
Many West Hollywood restaurants remain open and are offering takeout, curbside, and delivery meals, which are sensitive to social distancing during the emergency. The City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to offer a directory of “Stay Put, Order In” eateries in West Hollywood, which is accessible by visitingwww.weho.org/coronavirus (click the “Stay Put, Order In” link!) or www.wehochamber.com/dinein. This list is updated daily.
“We need to start hanging out together, and talking, and seeing each other again. So, why not plan to #WeHoDinnerConnect this week – maybe Saturday at 8 p.m.? Or Sunday at 7 p.m.? Or even just 15 minutes of screen-to-screen gossip,” said Mayor D’Amico. “And you don’t have to cook a thing… local restaurants have meals and menus tailored to take-away choices and they’re ready to send food over to your house or make arrangements for you to pick it up.”
If picking up food, remember to wear face coverings, which are required to enter essential businesses.
Amoeba Music Won’t Reopen Original Sunset Boulevard Store
HOLLYWOOD (TimeOut) — In a statement posted to its Instagram account on Monday, Amoeba announced that it would not be reopening its nearly two-decade-old flagship on Sunset Boulevard. Instead, the indie record shop will divert all of its resources to opening its new shop on Hollywood Boulevard, which they still hope to have ready in the fall.
“There are so many unknowns and uncertainties for a business like ours right now,” the statement reads. “The only way we can keep Amoeba Hollywood alive in the future is to make this difficult decision now.”
Our original story about the store’s GoFundMe campaign appears below.
It’s become a pit stop on music-lover’s tours of Hollywood, it’s hosted concerts from Patti Smith and Paul McCartney, and it’s weathered the Great Recession and the transition from CDs to MP3s to all things streaming. But with Amoeba Music’s future more uncertain now than ever, the massive independent record store is turning to its devotees for nearly half a million dollars to try to stay afloat.
In an essay on GoFundMe, Amoeba cofounders Dave Prinz and Marc Weinstein recount […]
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This Just In…
- County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family
- Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day
- WeHo Webinar: Loneliness, Isolation, Depression, and Anxiety During Pandemic
- Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions
- White House Gift Shop Selling Coronavirus Commemorative Coins
- Joe Exotic Prison Has 2nd Highest ‘Rona Rate
- Beverly Hills Votes To Resume Plastic Surgery Despite Coronavirus Pandemic