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Illegal Betting Ring Case Could Fail Due to Procedural Errors by the FBI

Nov 03, 2014
Using tricks to take down an illegal betting ring didn’t work for the FBI

Using tricks to take down an illegal betting ring didn’t work for the FBI

Using tricks to take down an illegal betting ring didn’t work for the FBI. Now a high-ranking member of the 14K triad society could slip through its fingers due to “procedural errors.”

Last week, the word got out that FBI agents went into Paul Phua’s apartment at Caesars Palace disguised as cable guys, to gather evidence without a warrant. As more “procedural errors” come to light, the alleged gambling kingpin could get away with his illegal betting operation because the bureau itself broke a few rules while trying to get the bad guy.

US federal agents say Paul Phua Wei-seng is a high-ranking member of Hong Kong’s 14K triad society. Phua and his son Darren Phua Wai-kit have been charged with operating an illegal betting ring from a hotel in Las Vegas, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. But they could both get away with it because of alleged breach of procedure by the FBI.

According to the latest gambling news, Phua’s lawyers filed a motion to suppress testimony he provided during a police raid, because agents didn’t follow the rules.

South China Morning Post: Procedural errors may kill FBI gambling case involving Asian kingpin Paul Phua

Phua and his son were arrested and charged with operating an illegal gambling ring in Las Vegas, during the World Cup. Now prosecutors have to prove that the two Malaysians used and operated these betting platforms from the luxury suites they rented at Caesars Palace.

Lawyers called the triad allegations unfounded and said the 50 year-old man “absolutely maintains he is innocent of the gambling charges in the United States”. Now they’re also trying to suppress statements where the defendants said Phua held a stake in IBC Bet, one of the largest betting operations in the Philippines.

Before obtaining these statements, police allegedly violated the defendants’ constitutional rights by failing to give a so-called Miranda warning, which informs suspects that they have the right to remain silent during an interrogation, until they get legal advice.

The two Malaysian men said they were staying at a villa which was offered to them free of charge by Caesars Palace. The motion says their defense lawyer was not allowed to meet them while they were being questioned.
In his affidavit, Phua wrote: “The first agent I saw pointed a machine gun at me and shouted, ‘Put your f*ing hands up’. Everyone in the villa was handcuffed, herded into the dining room, and told to get on our knees and face the wall.”

Before the World Cup, several illegal bookmakers have been arrested in Southeast Asia. Dozens of people were charged with breaking gambling laws by running unlicensed sports wagering services. Some of them pointed to IBC.

PokerNews: Did Caesars Palace and the FBI Collude in the Arrests of Paul Phua?

This July, eight people were arrested at Caesars Palace Las Vegas for being involved in an illegal betting ring. Among those arrested was 50-year-old Malaysian high-stakes poker player and alleged high-ranking member of the 14K Triad Paul Phua.

The arrests were part of an FBI sting and Phua’s lawyers claim the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the raid was conducted under an unlawful search warrant.

Investigations began this summer, when the defendants rented the villas and asked the casino staff for an “unusual amount of electronic equipment”. According to newspaper reports, the venue’s security personnel became suspicious and called the FBI, then worked together with agents to cut off Internet access to have an excuse to send undercover agents inside.

Posing as service technicians, FBI agents gained access to the villas and collected evidence to obtain a warrant in court. The defense argued that the warrant was obtained through an unlawful scheme.

“A ruling upholding these intrusions would cause innocent Americans to live their daily lives burdened with the palpable sense that their government is regularly scheming to spy on them in their homes,” lawyers said.

The federal government is expected to respond soon.

GamingZion: Gambler, Bookie, Diplomat, Gangster: the Fantastic Story of Paul Phua Wei-seng

Each year, illegal betting generates billions of dollars for criminal syndicates around the world. The largest scandal this year was when the FBI busted an operation run from two villas at the Caesars Hotel in Las Vegas. The head of the operation, reports said, was Paul Phua, a high-stakes poker player, former diplomat and alleged gangster.

Less than one month before being caught in Vegas, he had faced the same charges in Macau but posted bail and fled from the city. Newspapers said he flew straight to Sin City and continues his illegal business from here.

In addition to being a suspected black market bookmaker, Phua is also a legitimate businessman, owner of Sat Ieng Sociedade Unipessoal junket in Macau, where he likes to take a personal interest in entertaining his customers. He also holds a majority stake in IBC Bet, a company based in the Philippines which has grown to become one of the world’s most profitable sportsbooks.

From 2011 until his arrest in Las Vegas, Phua also held the title of San Marinese ambassador to Montenegro, although reports say he never properly checked in with the authorities in Podgorica, but did gain the advantage of traveling freely almost anywhere.

Phua is known in the world of high-stakes poker too. He makes regular appearances at the Poker King Club in Macau, and in 2012 he played in the $1 million buy-in tournament at the World Series of Poker.

Federal investigators say he is also a high-ranking member of the 14K triad, thought to be one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most powerful criminal organizations. It remains to be seen if the case against him stands or not, given the procedural errors committed by the FBI.

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FBI Agents Trick Betting Ring Members to Gather Evidence

Nov 01, 2014
FBI’s evidence against Paul Phua could be disregarded

FBI’s evidence against Paul Phua could be disregarded

After cutting off Internet access three Las Vegas luxury villas, FBI agents impersonated repair technicians to get inside and collect evidence.

Against the recommendation of an assistant U.S. attorney, Kimberly Frayn, the FBI went ahead with its plans and pretended to be repair technicians in order to get inside the villa. But lawyers representing four of the eight men charged in the case have filed a motion to dismiss all evidence collected that day. The prosecutor supposedly told FBI agents that “it was a consent issue.”

Under American laws, authorities need a warrant before searching a property, so defense lawyers challenged the actions described in detail by online gambling news, which were part of an investigation on an illegal sports betting operation.

If authorities don’t have the written permission, the person whose property is being inspected must first waive his constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. Otherwise, the evidence should not be used in trial, because it was improperly collected.

Fox News: Federal agents impersonated computer technicians to collect evidence in sports betting probe, lawyers say

FBI agents in Las Vegas had referred questions about their plan to the local US Attorney’s Office. Spokeswoman Natalie Collins said prosecutors were aware of the allegations, but declined to make any comments while the trial was pending.

According to American newspapers, the Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account, where it posted personal information and photos taken from the phone of a woman who had been arrested in a cocaine case. The idea was to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating information.

On another occasion, the FBI sent a fake news story to a suspect in a bomb-threat case, hoping he would click on the link thus allowing investigators to track down his location. The FBI had attributed the story to the Associated Press, causing the agency to react and describe the actions as “unacceptable”, claiming they undermined the publication’s credibility.

As for the gambling case, the criminal complaint revealed that the eight men came to the attention of authorities in June after requesting “an unusually large amount of electronics equipment and technical support” at their hotel. An electrical engineer working for the Las Vegas hotel said the equipment “appeared to be set up for an illegal gambling operation.”

FBI investigators tried to get into their apartment to gather evidence, but a former federal prosecutor, Mark Rasch, said the tactics they resorted will most likely not stand up in court. “Police are allowed to use a certain kind of subterfuge, but what they can’t do is create a certain kind of circumstance,” he said.

South China Morning Post: Dramatic FBI video shows how agents tricked their way into Paul Phua’s villa for gambling bust

Newspapers got their hands on 30 minutes of audio and video recordings of the FBI’s action plan to bust what appeared to be an illegal online betting operation in Las Vegas. The video was filmed through a lapel camera and shows how agents tricked their way into the villas where an alleged Asian gambling kingpin and his team were staying.

According to the defense, FBI agents shut off Internet access to Paul Phua Wei-seng’s villa at Caesars Palace, and then gained access to it by impersonating repair technicians. This is how authorities managed to collect the evidence used against the accused.

In the video obtained by the press, investigators are working on a set of code words to use while they were inside. One agent who adopted the name “Sam” – which he also used “for other stuff” in the past – is shown working on his cover story. The images briefly show another conversation about how investigators should dress.

“If you put on that shirt, you have to look the part. Go all the way,” said Mike Wood, a technician working for Caesars. He was advising Nevada Gaming Control Board Agent Ricardo Lopez before he entered one of the suites, on July 4. Lopez went back to the villa on July 5, when he pretended to fix an internet outage for several minutes.

Defense lawyer Thomas Goldstein described the operation as an “illegal search” and challenged the evidence in court.

CardsChat: Paul Phua Sports Betting Raid FBI Tactics Questioned by Legal Team

The FBI suspected that the eight men who rented villas at Caesars Palace were breaking the state’s gambling laws by running an unlicensed betting operation. Investigators spent two days working with the hotel’s computer contractor and the Nevada Gaming Control Board on shutting down their Internet access.

But they did not stop here. FBI agents impersonated repair staff to convince the customers to let them inside the apartments, and they even recorded what they found inside. The videos were the main evidence used to obtain the arrest warrant against the eight defendants.

Lawyers did not know how authorities had managed to get inside the suites until they overheard an official talk about cutting the Internet access. “They were trying everything they could to get inside without a warrant,” defense attorney Thomas Goldstein told reporters. Four out of the eight defendants have challenged the FBI’s actions in court.

Paul Phua and his son Darren were among those arrested. They were all charged with operating an illegal sports betting operation. Officials said Paul Phua is a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad, one of the world’s largest organized crime syndicates. Among gamblers, he is well-known for playing in high-stakes poker games in Macau, as well as in tournaments.

The poker community has supported the accused, and players Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl even offered $2.5 million towards Phua’s and his son’s bonds.

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Federal Police Take Down Malaysian Businessman for Running Illegal Betting Ring

Jul 30, 2014

Federal Police Take Down Malaysian Businessman for Running Illegal Betting Ring

Las Vegas is America’s gambling mecca and one of the few places where casinos and sportsbooks can legally accept wagers on sporting events. Where many people see a saturated market, however, Malaysian businessman Paul Phua Wei-seng saw an opportunity.

Several news sources have reported that the 50-year old man, his 22-year old son and several others set up an illegal betting ring in three hotel rooms at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. On July 15th Phua and the others were caught and arrested, with the Malaysian’s bail set at a whopping $2 million.

What were they taking bets on? The World Cup 2014 in Brazil. And the series of arrests came just weeks after the authorities in Hong Kong broke up a multi-million World Cup betting ring based there. That ring was run by, guess who? None other than Paul Phua Wei-seng.

Associated PressMalaysian Businessman Wei Seng Phua Released on $2 million Bond After Illegal Betting Arrest

Malaysian businessman and high-roller poker player Wei Seng Phua was released from jail in the US on July 28th after some fellow poker players posted his $2 million bond as well as the $500,000 set for his son. This is the latest gambling news in a month-long saga concerning the underworld figure.

Poker professionals Andrew Robl and 10-time World Series of Poker Champion Phil Ivey reportedly put together the $2.5 million to bail out the Phuas, which had been arrested (along with eight others) for running an illegal sportsbetting operation out of their Las Vegas hotel room.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials agreed to release him after bail was posted and they reviewed the case, finding that requirements had been met for release.

Daily Telegraph8 People Arrested by Federal Officials for Running Illegal Gambling Operation in Vega Hotel

Eight people from Malaysia, China and Hong Kong have been accused of running an illegal betting operation out of three Las Vegas hotel rooms. The group reportedly took millions of dollars in bets on World Cup matches.

The FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents made arrests on July 13th after raiding three suites at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

US attorney general Daniel Bogden told reporters that the Phua had opened up shop in Vegas after being arrested on June 18th for running an illegal gambling operation in Hong Kong. After posting bond there he flew to the US.

Casino employees alerted the authorities after growing suspicious about being asked to set up computer equipment in the three hotel rooms. If convicted, Phua and the others could each face up to two years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

South China Morning PostMalaysian Businessman Arrested in the US is an Alleged Member of Hong Kong Triads

Online gambling entrepreneur and reported member of the 14k Triads Paul Phua Wei-seng was arrested in Las Vegas on July 13th for running a World Cup betting ring out of a Las Vegas hotel room in violation of American gambling laws. The 50-year old Malaysian was one of eight people arrested, including three from Hong Kong.

Legal documents released by the FBI claimed that Phua is a high ranking member of the 14k Triads, one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most powerful criminal organizations.

He is also one of the key executives of IBCBet, which is arguably the world’s largest sportsbetting operator. A study by the International Centre for Sport Security in Qatar estimated that roughly 80 percent of wagers made on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were done so illegally.

CBS Las VegasPhua Still Not Released from Jail Despite $2 million of Phil Ivey’s Money

Lawyers representing Malaysian businessman Phua Wei-seng demanded that he be released after his $2 million bail was posted by a group of professional poker players, including 100-time World Series of Poker Champion Phil Ivey.

As of July 28th Phua still sat in jail despite his bail being met; authorities had not yet released him due their ongoing review of the case details. Phua lawyer David Chesnoff told the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Our clients have complied with every condition set by a federal judge for their release…We have repeatedly attempted to contact ICE authorities, who have not responded. We are going to take further legal steps.

Phua and his 22-year old son are among eight people arrested and held for allegedly running a million-dollar illegal betting ring out of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, taking wagers on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

South China Morning PostArrested Illegal Betting Operator Phua Once Served as Ambassador to Montenegro

Macau gambling kingpin, big-money casino winner and alleged Hong Kong triad leader Paul Phua Wei-seng served as San Marino’s ambassador to Montenegro for three years before being arrested in Las Vegas on July 13th for allegedly running an illegal World Cup betting ring.

The businessman and high-stakes poker player was appointed the diplomatic representative of the tiny European microstate in 2011, obtaining a diplomatic passport which allowed him to move freely throughout most countries around the globe.

Upon his appointment San Marinese foreign minister Antonella Mularoni expressed the idea that Phua could use his connections in the entertainment industry to bring a luxury hotel development project to San Marino.

He is also reported to be a major shareholder in IBCBET, a world-leading online betting operator based in the Philippines. After his arrest authorities in San Marino revoked his status and asked him to return his diplomatic passport.

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