Daniel Blieden - a Cincinnati-based marketing executive - has pled guilty to embezzling more than $22 million in company funds to purchase cryptocurrency for online gambling ventures.
Blieden Faces a Lengthy Prison Term
Blieden was facing charges of both wire fraud and “aggravated identity theft.” The company he worked for was called Style Haul, in which he served as the vice president of accounting and finance. The company focused primarily on fashion media, lifestyle and beauty products. The company shut its doors for good in early 2019, though at press time, it’s unclear if perhaps a lack of funds on Blieden’s part had anything to do with the company’s closure.
Embezzling funds seems to be a serious problem in the crypto space, with one of the biggest cases allegedly being Gerald Cotten of Quadriga CX fame. The cryptocurrency exchange based in Canada has been going through some serious legal rigamarole for the past year since Cotten - the company’s chief executive - allegedly passed away due to complications from Chron’s disease in India while performing charity work.
Cotten was the only person who had the appropriate access keys to customer funds. As a result, no other executive could access the funds and customers could not withdraw their money. Users ultimately turned to Cotten’s widow to see if they could access their funds, and when that didn’t work, a class-action suit followed quickly.
However, after his death, it was reported that Cotten may have embezzled cryptocurrency funds belonging to users prior to his unexpected demise.
In the case of Bleiden, the evidence is there while he’s still around and working. The Department of Justice first caught wind of his schemes while he was employed with Style Haul. They noticed that several funds from the company account had been secretly stashed away into his personal account. From there, crypto wallets in his name were loaded with more than $8 million in funds.
It is reported that much of this $8 million was later gambled away in online poker halls. He sent as much as $1.2 million in crypto funds to various poker players, while another $1.1 million was used for personal expenses and to pay off debt. He even utilized nearly $200,000 in assorted crypto funds to enter two poker competitions prior to his exit from Style Haul.
What Was the Money Spent On?
Bleiden was able to hide his activities for some time given that he often placed fake names in accounting records and wrote that all transactions were designed to assist Style Haul customers. He also provided phony letters from Western Union as a means of providing evidence that his wire transfers were valid. In addition, he spent more than $230,000 in crypto funds to garner a condominium in Mexico.
He currently faces up to 22 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in late March.
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