Paul Phua Sports Betting Case Continued to February
The prominent illegal sports betting case involving high-profile Malaysian gambler Paul Phua and his son, Darren, has been continued until February under the terms of an order issued on Wednesday by presiding US District Court Judge Peggy Leen.
The Christmas Eve continuation order issued by Leen followed three days of testimony in what local news reports deemed an “extraordinary hearing” regarding the tactics used to gather evidence in the case. As reported earlier here at FlushDraw and elsewhere, federal agents mounted a complex ruse to gain access to three semiprivate guest villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas last July. The suites were being occupied by the Phuas and several other defendants in the case, and were allegedly being used to conduct a boiler-room sports betting operation taking hundreds of millions of dollars worth of betting action on last year’s FIFA World Cup.
After Caesars officials became suspicious of the goings-on in the villas, they contacted state and federal investigators. FBI agents then posed as internet technicians while intentionally disconnecting service to the villas, then were later discovered to have lied to a warrant-issuing judge regarding the sequence of events leading up to the issuance of search warrants in July. The search itself may also have violated certain US Constitutional (Fourth Amendment) protections, and has thus drawn the interest and support of both mainstream media and civil-rights groups.
Judge Leen has announced that she will rule “soon” on a motion to suppress evidence made by the Phua father and son’s prominent attorneys, who include David Chesnoff, Richard Schonfeld and Thomas Goldstein. The FBI agents involved in the contested intrusion of the villas were among the witnesses testifying before Judge Leen.
As a result, Leen had little choice but to agree to a motion made by the defense attorneys — and agreed to by federal prosecutors — to move the trial’s scheduled start date from January to February.
Originally, the calendar call for the case involving Paul Phua, wherein final pretrial issues are resolved, was scheduled for January 7th, 2015, and has now been moved back four weeks to February 4th, 2015. The same four-week pushback also applies to the trial’s scheduled start date. Formerly slated for January 12th, the high-interest trial will now begin on February 9th, 2015.
As part of the motion filing, Phua’s attorneys noted that the case has already been deemed “Complex”, and that the four-week delay or other period as designated by Judge Leen would not be counted against speedy-trial provisions designed to move cases forward toward a resolution.
Paul (Wei Seng) Phua and his son Darren (Wai Kit) Phua are the only two of the case’s original defendants who declined to accept a plea deal with the government in the case. Five other defendants in the case, including a couple of other prominent Asian “high roller” gamblers, agreed to plea deals involving probation and heavy fines, with the stipulation that they also leave the country… most likely to be permanently denied reentry. Charges against a sixth defendant were dropped as a part of those earlier deals.
A similar deal was reportedly offered to the Phuas, who instead have chosen to fight the charges. Contrary to claims initially made by investigators and prosecutors, the Caesars Palace occupied by the Phuas was not part of the alleged boiler-room operation, though the Phuas were associated with the other defendants and other parties not charged in the case.
Several news reports claim that US prosecutors have demanded a $13 million settlement from the Phuas in exchange for dropping the charges, which is believed to approximate the profit that prosecutors was believed to have been generated from the alleged illicit World Cup bookmaking.
The Phuas posted bail in the case and were privately housed in Clark County, Nevada while awaiting trial with the assistance of several high-stakes poker pros. Among those backing the pair, who were central to famed high-stakes poker games held in Macau in recent years, were Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl and Tom Dwan. A $48 million Gulfstream jet owned by Paul Phua remains under seizure order and may represent one of the financial targets of prosecutors’ ongoing efforts.