Formal Criminal Indictment Filed Against Paul Phua Sportsbetting Group
Prosecutors for the United States Attorneys Office for the District of Nevada have now filed a formal criminal indictment in the case involving high-stakes poker player Wei Seng “Paul” Phua, his son, and six other defendants who are alleged to have operated an illicit sports betting operation out of guest villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas during the FIFA World Cup in June and July.
The indictment was dated Wednesday, July 29th, and was signed by US Attorney Daniel G. Bogden and Assistant US Attorney Kimberly M. Frayn, the lead prosecutors in the case.
The eight defendants, of Malaysian, Chinese and Hong Kong nationality, were arrested on July 13th after weeks of unusual activity in three of the semi-private guest villas at Caesars, which were rented by Phua and two other noted gambling whales on the international casino scene, Seng Chen “Richard” Yong and Hui Tang.
The activity included demands for numerous computers and large-scale, high-speed internet services (specifically, eight ‘Digital Subscriber Line’ (DSL) hookups, and accompanying WiFi access), all wired directly into the villas. That, and information gleaned from occasional service visits to the villas and the restriction of Caesars personnel from access to the villas at other times, led Caesars officials to contact the FBI and begin an investigation into the activity in the villas.
That investigation led to the formal charges being filed against the eight defendants. The criminal indictment reaffirms the two gambling-related charges filed against the eight defendants. The seven men and one woman face two primary charges of Transmission of Wagering Information and Operating an Illegal Gambling Business, plus a secondary count of aiding and abetting the operation.
The formal indictment also includes criminal forfeiture allegations which may allow prosecutors to attach assets of the defendants far in excess of the $250,000 maximum fines that each of the criminal allegations carry, in addition to the possible jail time — up to two years in prison on the unlawful transmission charge and as much as five more on the illegal gambling business charge. Paul Phua’s $48 million Gulfstream jet is already being held as collateral against his bail, which was finally approved last week with the cash support of several high-stakes poker pros who frequently played with Phua, Wong and the pair’s sons in the celebrated Macau high-stakes cash games. Those pros included Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl.
Authorities allege that nearly USD $400 million was processed through the operation being orchestrated through the “wire room” (as described in the USAO press release), in action on World Cup games. Investigators were able to determine that the computers were in constant use and connection with several prominent Asia-based sportsbetting sites, including one owned or co-owned by Phua himself.
The USAO complaint also alleged that Paul Phua is a known high-ranking member of the 14K Triad, an Asia-based organized crime ring specializing in illegal gambling operations, and that the operation was hastily relocated to the Caesars Palace villas after a similar operation was broken up by authorities in Macau. Paul Phua was among 22 people arrested there in June, and was deported, according to a Malaysian Times report, after a brief stay in jail, whereupon he quickly flew to the United States.
The eight defendants in the case, according to the formal USAO presser, are Paul Phua, 50, “Darren” Wai Kit Phua (Paul’s son), 22, Richard Yong, 56, Wai Kin Yong (Richard’s son), 22, Hui Tang, 44, Yan Zhang, 40, Yung Keung Fan, 46, and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, 36. The Phuas and Yongs are from Malaysia. Hui Tang is a Chinese national, while Zhang, Fan and Yeung are Hong Kong citizens.
Others were present in the villas at the time of the raid by FBI agents. They were questioned and released after not being able to be tied directly to the alleged gambling operation, which included at least five computers in each of the villas, each accompanied by three monitors. Additional laptops on the premises were also seized and remain part of the overall investigation.
In a separate filing, the ongoing plea hearings in the case for Paul and Darren Phua were moved up to tomorrow, August 5th, because or attorneys’ travel conflicts. The hearing was originally scheduled for later in the week. Darren Phua is represented by attorney Richard A. Schonfeld, of the prominent Las Vegas firm Chesnoff & Schonfeld. David Chesnoff himself is representing father Paul in the case.