Paul and Darren Phua Are in ICE Custody at the Henderson Detention Center
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has taken Paul Phua and Darren Phua into custody. The father and son at the heart of the Caesars Palace illegal gambling ring had been free on bail in Las Vegas, awaiting an early August court date.
Paul Phua is a known professional poker player who’s won one major tournament in England. He’s also worth at least $400 million. Phua is suspected of being one of eighteen men arrested in June in Hong Kong, operating a World Cup illegal betting ring. After being deported from Hong Kong in the wake of that arrest, Phua, his son, and several other men set up an operation in a lavish suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
World Cup Betting Ring
Phua and his alleged accomplices had an elaborate World Cup media center set up in the hotel room. Their preparations were elaborate enough that Caesars Palace staff began to suspect they were operating an illegal sports betting ring on the World Cup. Management from Caesars Palace phoned the authorities. Agents of the Nevada Gaming Commission and the FBI raided the room, arrested 3 Chinese men and 4 Malaysians. It quickly emerged that Paul Phua, who may have ties to a triad organized crime syndicate, was the ringleader.
The World Cup represents a 4-year apex of sports betting around the globe. In the gambling ring busted by joint Hong Kong and mainland Chinese police, it is suspected over $2.2 billion exchanged hands. Some estimate the syndicate handled more like $5 billion. If the stories are true that Phua was the same man arrested in Hong Kong, then the betting was so lucrative that it was worth the risk for a man with $400 million to risk arrest in Las Vegas. Phua miscalculated, though, because US authorities do not appear willing to simply deport him, as the Chinese authorities did.
Paul and Darren Phua’s Bail Proceedings
Paul Phua and his 22-year old son, Darren, were released on $2.5 million bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman. It was reported the two were living with an area doctor who had a fascination with poker. The two were fitted with GPS devices so they couldn’t escape, while Phua’s $40 million private jet was kept as collateral in case they fled the country.
This wasn’t enough for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, who took custody of the men as soon as their bail was posted (despite reports to the contrary). David Chesnoof and Richard Shonfeld, the lawyers for Phua and his son, were irate at this turn of events.
Lawywers Unhappy with Detention
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.”
With their lawyers unable to get reliable information on where the Phuas were being held, it has not been easy for the gambling media to confirm their whereabouts. It’s obvious ICE, which is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, is still holding them. The Phuas are listed in ICE custody at the Henderson Detention Center, according to the Review-Journal.
Chesnoff and Schonfeld say they plan a legal challenge of the ICE detention, saying the executive branch of the federal government overstepped its authority in contraindicating a ruling by the judicial branch. No word has been given yet when this filing will occur.
Phil Ivey Posted Bail
According to Las Vegas court documents, Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl posted bail. Paul Phua was being held on $2 million bond, while Darren Phua was held on $500 thousand bond.
Phil Ivey is thought to have paid $1 million bail, while Andrew Robl posted the other $1.5 million. According to Ivey, he has been friends with Paul Phua for the past four years. Phua is said to be among the high roller poker players who play in cash games around the globe.
Tom Dwan Supporting Paul Phua
Tom Dwan, another poker professional, was with the Phuas at Caesars Palace when they were arrested. Tom Dwan signed a sworn affidavit and voice his support for the Phuas. He has criticized the FBI for its tactics when it arrested Paul Phua.