Two women were sentenced Thursday to 33 months in federal prison for stealing more than $1.1 million from Billy Blanks, the founder of the Tae Bo exercise program, federal officials said.
The two women — Rhenee Sharmell Foster, 46, and Demetria Foster Gutierrez, 52 — pleaded guilty to making unauthorized withdrawals from the bank account of Blanks’ company, BG Star Productions, more than 60 times.
In addition to the prison time, the women were ordered to pay $1,119,000 in restitution and are barred from being employed in positions for which they would manage or have a hand in their employers’ money for a three-year period after their release from prison.
The women operated a Marina Del Rey company that provided bill-paying, bookkeeping and financial services for the fitness company operated by Blanks and his former wife, Gayle Blanks, which hired them in 2004.
The couple had given Foster and Gutierrez access to the bank account so they could pay the Blanks’ personal and company bills. Instead, prosecutors said the women withdrew and transferred money to cover more than $1 million in charges they had incurred on their own American Express cards.
Prosecutors said the women covered up their scheme by giving the Blanks’ financial statements that listed the money they had skimmed as payments for the Blanks’ loans and expenses that were actually fictitious.
Officials said the women paid for vacations and clothing, as well as made down payments on several Range Rovers, using the Blanks’ money.