Paul Phua and his son Darren will continue to fight the charges against them in court, as they will plead not guilty to charges stemming from the illegal sports betting ring they allegedly helped run out of a Caesars Palace villa.
The Phuas are alone among the eight defendants in the case to plead guilty, as the other six cases will be wrapped up this week.
“We are not guilty as we always maintained,” said David Chesnoff, the Las Vegas lawyer representing the Phuas. “It is our intention to fight the unconstitutional conduct of the federal government for our clients and for the rest of the public.”
Five Defendants Enter Guilty Pleas; One Case Dropped
Five other defendants decided that it would be best to end the proceedings rather than take their chances in a trial.
Richard Yong, Hui Tang, Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan and Herman Chun Sang Yeung have all agreed to plea deals following weeks of negotiations with prosecutors.
All five will enter those pleas this week before US District Judge Andrew Gordon. Four of the defendants will plead guilty to misdemeanors, while Tang will plead guilty to a felony gambling charge. The defendants expect to receive probation, which will allow them to return to their homes in Southeast Asia.
The eighth defendant was Yong’s son, Wai Kin Yong. However, all charges against Wai Kin have been dismissed. There have been no public comments on any of the plea deals from the attorneys on either side of those cases.
The plea deals will leave the spotlight squarely on the Phuas, who have been the central figures in the case from the beginning. Paul Phua is a well-known figure in the world of high-stakes poker, and those connections were immediately beneficial to him: professional poker players Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl combined to put up $2.5 million in bail money for the two Phuas after they were arrested.
Phuas Likely to Fight Case on Procedural Grounds
Once the case goes to trial, the legal battle may be over the tactics used by FBI agents during their investigation rather than a dispute over what was going on in the Caesars Palace villa that hosted the alleged sports betting operation.
In July, after casino personnel became suspicious, the FBI worked with Caesars to shut off Internet access to the villas being occupied by the defendants. When tech support was requested, agents posed as technicians to gain access to the rooms and shoot video that was then used to obtain a warrant for a raid.
Defense attorneys have questioned whether that warrant was obtained legally. Because the FBI manipulated the situation to encourage the defendants to call for technical support, they may have violated the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.
Lawyers have also questioned the links made by officials between Paul Phua, Richard Yong, and the 14K Triad, a Hong Kong-based criminal organization. Those links may have been used to convince a federal judge to authorize a warrant that led to the raid on the villas.
The seven remaining defendants in the case may face financial punishment from the case, even if most of them seem likely to avoid jail time. Federal prosecutors are hoping to recover as much as $13 million in cash and assets, including $650,000 in cash and casino chips that were seized during the FBI raid.