Former /DRIVE and Fast Lane Daily Owner Emil Rensing Receives Four-Year Prison Sentence for Fraud
Portions of Rensing’s stolen $7.8 million were used to fund the two automotive YouTube ventures.
Back in April 2016, the former chief digital officer of premium TV channel Epix, Emil Rensing, was arrested for stealing almost $8 million from his employer. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero sentenced Rensing to four years and three months in prison, according to a Variety report. He must also pay back the money he stole from Epix in addition to costs the TV channel incurred during its investigation.
Charged with one count of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, Rensing pleaded guilty to the wire fraud charge last year, according to a previous Variety report. As part of the plea agreement, the charge of aggravated identity theft was dropped along with Rensing's right to appeal the sentence.
According to prosecutors, Rensing conducted "a sophisticated and calculated fraud" that employed fake vendors, made-up invoices, and forged signatures of former business associates. The prosecutors alleged that Rensing had embezzled precisely $7,774,469.52 by severely over-billing Epix for streaming platform technical services that were either not delivered or farmed out to other Epix employees.
"This was not sloppiness or embellishment. It was a sophisticated and calculated fraud," wrote assistant U.S. Attorney Elisha Kobre.
Rensing was reportedly going through a rough patch in his personal life and used the stolen money to drown his sorrows in fast cars and passion-project side ventures. Among those ventures were automotive YouTube channels /DRIVE and Fast Lane Daily. In fact, one of the 57 character letters submitted to vouch for Rensing came from none other than former FLD host, Derek DeAngelis.
DeAngelis wrote, "Emil isn’t perfect, none of us are, but we all make mistakes, and sure, some are bigger than others. What I do know is that he is a good person. There is no doubt in my mind he is remorseful for what has occurred recently in his life with this whole situation."
[Note: Rensing has not been involved with either channel since both were acquired by Time Inc. in February 2016. Time Inc. itself was acquired by Meredith Corp. earlier this year.]
Rensing's attorneys argued that the former TV exec deserved a lighter 15-month sentence, stating in documents filed last week, "Removing a person from society like Emil Rensing, who can give back by volunteering his technical and creative genius to others, makes little sense even from a punishment perspective." To back up these claims, Rensing has apparently spent the last few months doing "volunteer IT and grant-writing work" with the Fortune Society, an organization that supports former prison inmates transitioning back to society.
In the end, however, the judge pointed to the intricacy and duration of Rensing's scheme and sided with the prosecution in handing down a total prison sentence of 51 months. "I've ruined my life and my career," Rensing said before apologizing to friends and family and promising to pay back all of the money he stole from Epix. "I lost control of my life in these years. I'm motivated to turn my life around."
Variety also reports that another legal battle concerning $500,000 in an Emil Rensing-owned bank account and Emil's father, Bruce Rensing, is currently ongoing. Emil reportedly agreed to give that money up to pay off his debt to Epix. Several days after his indictment, however, Emil transferred the money to his father after borrowing $600,000 from Bruce for "legal fees and living expenses."
Now, Bruce Rensing is claiming his right to the $500,000 over the government. Notably, the money was apparently generated from the sale of /DRIVE and Fast Lane Daily, two of Rensing's ventures that were financed directly with stolen Epix funds. Because of this, the government argues that the $500,000 is their rightful property.
Emil Rensing is scheduled to surrender for prison Sept. 10 and will be on supervised release for three years after his sentence.