In a few weeks time the Aria will host the $500,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl. There was a time when Wei Seng “Paul” Phua would have been a dead cert to play in that. Today, he has no chance. He remains under house arrest, a few miles from that locale, waiting to be tried for operating an illegal betting ring.
The poor man. Locking a high stakes gambler in a Las Vegas apartment is akin to locking Russell Brand on the set of St.Trinian’s.
Evidence Ruled Inadmissible
But things are looking up for the Malaysian businessman, after a federal judge ruled that evidence obtained by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would not be admissible at the trial. The ruling, made by US District Judge Andrew Gordon, means the case against Phua is as shaky as a newly born foal.
Gordon has allowed the prosecution until Friday to decide to drop the criminal charges altogether, or go ahead with the planned trial on Monday, June 1, minus the guts of their case.
FBI Botched the Investigation
Phua, was arrested along with eight other associates, midway through the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. All nine people were holed up in three luxury villas at Caesars Palace, surrounded by computers, Internet routers and other electronic gadgetry. It’s alleged they were in the midst of operating an illegal online gambling ring concentrating on the World Cup.
Agents working for the FBI, and in conjunction with Caesars Palace employees, created a technical fault on the Internet, and then dressed as cable repairmen, in order to gain access to the villas where they recorded footage later used to obtain warrants for their arrests.
In February, US Magistrate Judge Peggy Lean decided that the evidence obtained by the FBI was the result of an unconstitutional warrantless search of a person’s private property.
The idea was, if this evidence was allowed to stand, then the FBI could repeat this type of invasion of one’s privacy anytime they chose.
“There is no more evidence from anywhere.” Said Phua’s lawyer David Chesnoff. “This sends a clear message that illegal searches will not be tolerated.”
Co-Defendants Have Already Admitted Guilt
The only thing going for the prosecution is the fact that six of Phua’s co-defendants have already admitted their wrong doings, took their slap on the wrist, and buggered off home. Charges were dropped against a seventh man, and Phua continued to maintain his innocence, despite quite the contrary from his pals, including his son.
Phua is well known in the poker community. He backed numerous players in the inaugural One Drop, and received financial support from Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl, and Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates after he had been arrested.
The prosecutors also maintain that Phua is a high-ranking official in an Asian organized crime syndicate. His defense team insist that he is nothing more than a highly successful hotel and mining businessman.
The case continues wobbles.