Two Marina del Rey businesswomen have been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for stealing more than $1.1 million from a company operated by the founder of the Tae Bo exercise program.
Rhenee Foster, 46, and Demetria Gutierrez, 52, both of Palos Verdes Estates, were sentenced Jan. 9 by United States District Judge Gary A. Feess. In addition to the 33-month prison terms, Feess ordered the women to pay $1,119,000 in restitution and to not be employed in any capacity in which they would have management or control of their employers’ funds for a three year period after their release from prison, said a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California.
Foster and Gutierrez both pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud and fraudulently using an access device issued to another person, the spokesperson said. The women operated a Marina del Rey company that provided bill paying, bookkeeping, and other services to Billy Blanks, the fitness instructor who developed and marketed the Billy Blanks Tae Bo exercise program, and ex-wife Gayle Blanks.
From March 2007 through March 2010, Foster and Gutierrez made unauthorized withdrawals from the bank account of the Blanks’ company, BG Star Productions, on more than 70 occasions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Blanks hired Foster and Gutierrez in 2004 and had given them access to the BG Star Productions bank account so they could pay their personal and company bills.
According to U.S. attorneys, Foster and Gutierrez used this access to secretly withdraw and transfer funds from the account to pay off more than $1 million in charges that the women had incurred on their own American Express cards.
The women used the stolen funds to pay for, among other things, expensive clothing, vacations, and down payments on several Range Rovers, U.S. attorneys said.