High-stakes poker player Paul Phua and his son Darren have had quite a roller coaster week: first they were set to be released from federal custody after millions were put up in bail for them by friends Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl, and then Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents took custody of them instead. They were finally released on Monday, but now they’ve been indicted in connection with the illegal gambling ring that was allegedly run out of three Caesars Palace villas under their supervision.
A total of eight defendants, including seven men and one woman, were indicted by a Las Vegas grand jury on Tuesday in connection with the massive World Cup betting ring. Each of the defendants is now facing two charges: one count of transmission of illegal wagering information, and one count of operating an illegal gambling business, both of which are felony charges.
The charges follow an FBI raid that shut down the alleged illegal sports betting operation that was running out of Caesars Palace. The Phuas were perhaps the most well-known of the eight individuals arrested following that raid, as Paul Phua is a common sight in many of the high-stakes poker games played in Macau, Las Vegas and other locations.
That association with the world of poker proved valuable for Phua. After US Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman set a bail of $2 million for the elder Phua and $500,000 for his son Darren, the family’s friends in the poker community came up with the money to free them. Andrew Robl contributed $1.5 million towards Paul’s bail, while Phil Ivey chipped in the additional $1 million needed to free both men.
However, that was not the last word, as ICE agents took custody of the Phuas and detained them, reportedly for possible deportment. The two men were eventually freed on Monday evening.
The Phuas also received support from Tom “durrrr” Dwan, who was with them at the time of their arrest. Dwan filled out a sworn affidavit questioning the tactics used by agents during the Phuas’ arrests, and has been seen talking to defense lawyers during their court appearances.
Other prominent defendants in the case include Richard Yong and his son Wai Kin Yong, both of whom are also well-known in the high-stakes poker community. Richard, a Malaysian junketeer, is said by prosecutors to be one of the leaders of the betting operation.
The Yongs have also received significant support from professional poker players. John Juanda has described the men as having “honor and integrity,” and expressed shock about the allegations around Richard Yong, who he reportedly considers a friend. Meanwhile, Gabe Patgorski has agreed to let both Yongs live at his home in Las Vegas as a term of their release while awaiting trial.
According to authorities, the World Cup betting ring was actually the continuation of a similar operation that was based in Macau. That ring was busted on June 18, when Phua and more than 20 other individuals were arrested. After being released on bail, Phua then traveled to Las Vegas on his private jet, where it is alleged that the betting activities continued.
FBI officials have alleged that Phua is a prominent member of the 14K Triad, a major international organized crime ring, though Phua’s lawyer has denied such claims.