Emil Rensing, the former chief digital officer of Epix, was sentenced Friday to more than four years in prison for stealing nearly $8 million from the pay cabler over a four-year period.
Attorneys for Rensing had sought a sentence of 15 months to two years. The judge cited the sophistication of Rensing’s fraud against his employer and the length of time in which Rensing submitted fraudulent invoices to the company, often using the names of former colleagues and co-workers without their consent.
“He developed a very, very sophisticated scheme to engage in this misconduct over a long period of time,” U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said in handing down a 51-month sentence in his Manhattan federal courtroom. The term of four years and three months was on the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines of 51 months to 63 months. Rensing pleaded guilty last year to one count of wire fraud. He was indicted in April 2016.
Rensing will surrender for prison on Sept. 10. After serving his sentence, he will be on supervised release for a period of three years. He is also obligated to pay $7.7 million in restitution to Epix, plus undetermined costs that Epix incurred in investigating the fraud that began shortly after Rensing was hired in April 2010. Rensing submitted bogus invoices for technical work done for Epix by a third-party vendor that he controlled, unbeknownst to Epix. The wire fraud charge stemmed from the fact that Epix transferred payments to a bank account controlled by Rensing. He had also been facing an aggravated identity theft charge, which was dropped as part of the plea agreement.
The courtroom in lower Manhattan was packed with more than two dozen of Rensing’s friends and family members, including those who worked with him during his years as a prominent executive and digital media entrepreneur. His girlfriend of the past 18 months, Emily Acevedo, cried and shook after the sentence was handed down.
Rensing also fought back tears as he addressed the judge and asked for leniency in setting the prison term. He waived his right to appeal the sentence as part of his plea agreement.
“I’ve ruined my life and my career,” Rensing said. He apologized to his friends and family for the pain and embarrassment caused by his criminal acts, and he vowed to pay his debt to Epix. “I lost control of my life in these years,” Rensing said, citing the trauma of the end of his marriage in 2009 and the death of his sister due to drug problems. “I’m motivated to turn my life around.”
Prosecutors maintained that Rensing has yet to “fully come to grips with his conduct” and has continued to offer “excuses and justifications” for his actions. As detailed in pre-sentencing documents, Rensing’s legal team has cited as motivation for his actions the culture at Epix during his tenure.
“He felt his compensation was not high enough for the work or value he delivered; he believed he had tacit management approval; that the corporate culture encouraged him so long as he produced results; and rules were not so important in that business,” Rensing’s attorneys wrote in a pre-sentencing submission to the judge.
Elisha Kobre, assistant U.S. Attorney, cited those statements and others in pushing for significant prison time. “This isn’t the sort of contrition that defense counsel suggests exists,” Kobre told the judge on Friday.
Although Emil Rensing’s legal fate was settled on Friday, a related fight involving Rensing’s father, Bruce Rensing, is also playing out over control of $500,000 in a JPMorgan Chase bank account belonging to Emil Rensing. Emil Rensing has agreed to forfeit that money as part of his restitution payments. But a few days after he was indicted, Emil Rensing signed over that money to his father through a “security guarantee” that he made when he borrowed $600,000 from his father to pay for his legal fees and living expenses.
Rensing was “basically broke” at the time of his indictment, attorney Henry Mazurek said, as a result of “manic” spending habits and bad investments. Bruce Rensing has since filed a claim with the government to exert his right to the $500,000 now held in his son’s name. The money came from the sale in 2015 of the YouTube channels Drive and Fast Lane Daily, which Rensing operated outside of his role at Epix. Because those businesses were supported in part by money stolen from Epix, the government has laid claim to Emil Rensing’s proceeds from the sale.
Prosecutors point to the loan agreement with Bruce Rensing as a sign that Emil Rensing was trying to shield assets from forfeiture. Mazurek argued that the arrangement was a sign of Emil Rensing’s desperation because his father used his own retirement savings to help his son. “He couldn’t say no to his father,” Mazurek said in explaining Emil Rensing’s contradictory actions.
After the sentencing, Emil and Bruce Rensing embraced outside the courtroom. Both declined to comment for this story.