5 of the 8 in the Paul Phua Illegal Sports Betting Case Get Plea Bargains
Five of the eight defendants in the case involving an alleged illegal gambling ring run out of Caesars Palace last summer are taking a plea bargain. The key figure in the case, professional poker player Paul Phua, still intends on going to trial.
The plea bargain makes the case against Wei Seng “Paul” Phua and his son, Darren Wai Kit Phu, less complicated. Defense attorney Chris Rasmussen says the five defendants would get probation and be deported back to their home countries of Malaysia and Singapore. Under those circumstances, it is unknown whether the defendants’ plea bargains may involve those five men giving evidence in the case. While it’s suggested they’ll be deported, the fact they will be given probation could mean they spend some time in the country. Charges against a sixth man were dropped entirely.
Paul and Darren Phua Last Remaining Defendants
That leaves only two defendants in the case: Paul Phua and his 22-year old son, Darren Phua. Back in the summer, Phua’s lawyers asked that the charges against Darren be dropped, because he was said to have been an unwitting party to whatever activities had happened.
Laptop Story Not Accepted
The defense said Darren Phua had bought a laptop computer used by Paul Phua in the alleged crime. The son then used his own log-in identity to set up the computer, which lawyers say he did because his father was less tech-savvy and the computer was a gift.
Prosecutors apparently did not buy the story, because charges against everyone else but Darren Phua and his father were dropped. The case has received a lot of attention the poker media, because it involved a known professional gambler. Several pro poker players also posted bail for the Malaysian gambler and businessman.
About Wei Seng Phua
Wei Seng “Paul” Phua is a colorful figure who stands out in an industry known for such characters. He has been a non-resident ambassador for the tiny sovereign nation on the Italian peninsula, San Marino. He is alleged to be a member of the notorious East Asian organized crime syndicate, the 14K Triad.
When Phua was first arrested, he posted bail by putting up his $40 million private jet as collateral. Phua is said to be worth $400 million from his various business interests, including an online sportsbook of some renown. The month prior to his arrests in Las Vegas, Phua apparently was caught in a Hong Kong sports betting raid on a similar World Cup gaming syndicate, which caused him and 12 other men to be deported (5 Chinese accomplices were arrested).
At one point, a story was published which painted Paul Phua’s determination to run an illegal sportsbook out Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip as one final caper. Phua was said to be world weary and wanting one final score before he retired.
Stories then surfaced that world famous poker players like Phil Ivey were posting bail for their old friend. Eventually, Ivey and other other gambler each posted $1.5 million to bail out Paul and Darren. The two were thought to be living with a Las Vegas area proctologist who enjoys high stakes gambling. It was also learned that, besides his notable career in tournament poker, Paul Phua met the world’s best card players by playing high stakes games at Vegas Strip casinos.
FBI and Illegal Evidence Collecting
Phua’s lawyers have been similarly active. Two months ago, they challenged evidence in the case, saying it was obtained illegally. Documents were filed in which FBI lawyers seemed to agree with that contention, because FBI agents obtained evidence surreptitiously by pretending to be tech support personnel.
If that interpretation of the law holds, then prosecutors would have a hard time proving a case against Paul Phua and son, unless they received cooperation from other defendants. That might explain why 5 of the defendants received plea bargains. Or it might indicate prosecutors need to focus the case, or even wrap it up with as little fanfare as possible.