Paul Phua is set to go to trial in Nevada on April 13th for charges of operating an illegal sports betting ring during the 2014 World Cup, but for prosecutors to properly present its case they are asking for evidence collected in a controversial manner to be permitted.
In July, FBI investigators shutoff the Internet connection to Phua’s Caesars Palace villas in Las Vegas then entered the residences undercover, posing as computer techs working to fix the problem.
The sting led to the arrest of Phua and six others, including his then 22-year-old son Darren.
Federal prosecutors say Phua and his team accepted millions of dollars in World Cup bets, and profited around $13 million.
However, the case might be difficult to prove after US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen recommended the evidence obtained in the undercover raid should be dismissed, saying “false and misleading” statements were made in obtaining search warrant authorization. Leen also revealed agents didn’t properly disclose how the probe would take place, designating the proceedings as “fatally flawed.”
Earlier this week, Kimberly Frayn and Phillip Smith Jr., two assistant US attorneys, requested District Judge Andrew Gordon take a second look at Leen’s decisions.
Gordon will oversee the Phua trial when it begins in April. Frayn and Smith said in court papers that the FBI did no wrongdoing in its investigation, and that any omission in its technical procedure during the warrant approval process was unintentional. The two attorneys emphasized nothing occurred that would necessitate the dismissing of any evidence.
Should Gordon follow Leen’s recommendations and prevent the video surveillance from being shown to a jury, prosecutors feel Phua could easily get off.
The footage clearly identifies the illegal sports betting op, and dozens of cellphones, computers, and iPads apprehended during the seizure prove Phua was the mastermind. Should all of that evidence be excluded, the charges would have little merit.
While the Phuas remain their innocence, the five others arrested pled guilty late last year. Richard Yong, Hui Tang, Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan, and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, all residents of either China or Malaysia, accepted a plea deal from Judge Gordon resulting in a fine and five year probation with the condition they don’t enter the United States during that timeframe.
Phua attorney David Chesnoff is no stranger to high-profile lawsuits. He’s the go-to lawyer for celebrities who find themselves in trouble in Vegas. From Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan to poker greats Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, and Mike Matusow, Chesnoff is the Negreanu of Nevada defense.
The Phua case appears to be moving in his client’s favor, but that isn’t stopping Chesnoff from staying on the offensive. In addition to prosecutors filing paperwork this week, Chesnoff did as well.
While he’s pleased of Leen’s recommendation of evidence dismissal, he wants Judge Gordon to reconsider her decision that Phua’s Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated. “The government’s position in this case, and the legal rule the magistrate judge suggested this court adopt, would shock the conscience of ordinary Americans. It is an assault on our deepest constitutional values that cannot be taken seriously,” the 59-year-old lawyer said.