50-year-old Paul Phua, a suspected member of the organized crime 14K Triad in Hong Kong, is going to get off scot-free for running an illegal sports betting ring from his Las Vegas Caesars Palace villas during the 2014 World Cup.
Late last week, Andrew Gordon, district judge for the state of Nevada, said the FBI had no right to enter Phua’s residence in order to collect evidence because a proper search warrant hadn’t been granted.
In July, agents disabled Internet service to the three villas before disguising themselves as Caesars computer technicians arriving to resolve the outage.
Once inside the suites, bureau investigators used hidden body cameras to document the inner workings of the sports betting ring.
Now armed with the evidence federal prosecutors needed, Phua and seven other members were charged with operating an illegal gambling business.
But as soon as poker colleagues Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl posted Phua’s $2.5 million bail, the tactics used by the FBI in obtaining the video footage immediately began garnering national attention.
No Warrant, No Seizure
In his 22-page ruling, Judge Gordon said, “Under the totality of the circumstances in this case, I conclude that the officers violated Phua’s Fourth Amendment rights by creating the need for a third party to enter Phua’s hotel room to repair the DSL and then posing as repairmen to gain entry.
Under these circumstances, Phua’s consent was not voluntary within the Fourth Amendment’s meaning.”
Although suspicions on the part of investigators were found true, the manner in which they proceeded didn’t conform to the United States Constitution.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.“
According to Patrick Jay, director of trading at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Phua’s IBCBet is one of the largest sports betting operations in the world.
“It’s of interest to all legal, licensed operations when a guy who is claimed to be the owner is arrested in Las Vegas by FBI agents.”
Estimates place IBCBet’s annual revenues over $100 billion, meaning the sports betting ring surpasses companies like Amazon, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s in total sales.
Once known for being a high roller at poker tables around the world, Phua is now more notorious for his life of crime.
Many believe Phua isn’t just one of the 14K Triad’s 25,000 members, but one of the more senior and higher-ranking leaders in the organization.
Although he adamantly denies having any ties to 14K, members don’t typically admit to being associated with one of China’s most violent triad societies.
Believed to be worth between $300 and $400 million, Phua’s getting his money from somewhere, and it certainly isn’t the poker table. The next time you want to place a wager on a sporting event, you might be smart to steer clear of IBC.