Bad week for the poker space as two pros face prison for separate crimes
By Bob Garcia
One player defrauded the government, another embezzled funds
The poker community, in particular, has received news this week that two poker pros are facing significant prison sentences for two separate crimes. These updates come in the midst of events that are gaining momentum these days, and although these are situations that have been experienced in the past, they are not usually so common.
The first to come to light was public poker figure who appears in a new live stream of cash games, Billy Joe Taylor. After facing a police raid on his properties, he was indicted last month in the Western District of Arkansas after being involved in one of the state’s biggest possible medical frauds related to the crimes that have wreaked havoc in the country regarding the coronavirus. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Taylor, 42, and his medical laboratories improperly billed the US Government for $88 million, as well as reporting tests that were never actually performed. This represents more than half of the wrongdoing by 14 defendants in seven different states related to this medical testing scam. This being the case, Taylor now faces millions of dollars in fines, civil penalties and a total of up to five years in federal prison.
Along the lines of fraud and embezzlement, Dennis Blieden, a former World Poker Tour (WPT) champion, was also sentenced last Wednesday to more than six and a half years in prison because, after several investigations, he was found to have embezzled a total of $22 million from a digital marketing-based company. Blieden had already been involved with this issue two years ago, as he had pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft involving funds that were stolen from StyleHaul. By the time this pro had cashed in a large sum during a WPT event, he had already embezzled at least $15 million, according to reports. These funds were used to play poker and fund cryptocurrencies. Although the sentence should have been higher, this was not the case and he has now also been ordered to pay around $22.7 million in restitution to the victims of his fraud.