Five Plea Deals Reached in Caesars Palace World Cup Gambling Case
Five of eight initial defendants in a prominent Las Vegas illegal gambling case have reached plea deals with prosecutors this week. The case features a ring of prominent Asian gambling “whales” who allegedly used their VIP connections to set up a boiler-room online gambling operation during the heart of last summer’s FIFA World Cup, which generated massive global gambling activity.
Two of the case’s more prominent defendants, Hui Tang, 44, and Richard Yong, 56, pled guilty today in US federal court. The pleas for Tang and Yong follow the pleadings of lesser defendants Yan Zhang, 41, Yung Keung Fan, 46, and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, 36, on Tuesday.
All five of the plea deals were part of an interconnected arrangement with prosecutors that required each of the five to plead guilty to resolve their respective cases. As part of the deal, charges against a sixth defendant, Richard Yong’s son Wai Kin will be dropped.
The five plea deals and one case dismissal leave only two defendants in the case who are scheduled to go to trial, the father and son pair of Paul and Darren Phua. “Paul” Phua (real name Wei Seng Phua) was alleged to be one of the leaders of the operation, following his reported deportation from Macau on similar charges just before his arrival in Las Vegas.
Both of the Phuas, along with the Yongs, are well known in the poker world for their frequent participation in high-stakes cash games in Macau, along with appearances elsewhere on the international poker scene.
The plea deals for each of the five defendants appearing in court this week call for probation, fines and forfeitures, with each of the defendants able to leave the US almost immediately. Hui Tang, whose name was on the villa rental that figured most actively in the disputed evidence presented to the court by investigators, agreed to a fine of $250,000 and a forfeiture of an additional $250,000 plus much of the electronic equipment seized from the villa he occupied at Caesars Palace. Tang pled guilty to a single charge of transmission of wagering information, a felony, with other counts dismissed.
Richard Yong, who rented another of the villas, agreed to a fine of $100,000 and a forfeiture of an additional $400,000 to resolve the charges against him. Yong pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact to transmission of wagering information.
Both men agreed to a five-year probation period, during which they will not be allowed to return to the United States.
The three defendants in the case who pled guilty on Tuesday, one woman and two men, also received the five-year probation term and will not be allowed to return to the United States during that team. Each of those three defendants was fined $100,000 and ordered to forfeit an additional $125,000 in resolution of the outstanding charges.
The completion of the plea deals with the five defendants and the dismissal of the sixth case leaves only the ongoing cases against the Phuas, who have retained high-profile legal representation, including celebrity Vegas attorney David Z. Chesnoff in their defense. The case against the Phuas hinges on the legality of the suspect search techniques used by FBI agents to gain access to the third villa in the case, which was rented by Paul Phua, in a Fourth Amendment issue regarding unlawful and misleading entry which has drawn the notice of mainstream news outlets. Prosecutors have admitted that FBI agents employed a complicated ruse to gain entry to the villas where Caesars Palace workers suspected the boiler-room operation was being run, posing as technicians and intentionally turning off high-speed internet access to the deluxe rooms.
The extent to which the same Fourth Amendment protections would have been extended to the case’s other six defendants will now never be tested in court. Hui Tang, whose name graced the Villa 8888 where the heart of the gambling business operation allegedly occurred, was also implicated directly in evidence seized from computers, including multiple occurrences seized from Skype chats of bettors’ action being guaranteed by “Brother Hui” [Tang].