Paul Phua has plenty of friends in the poker community, as proven by the fact that Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl posted $2 million in bail for him (along with another $500,000 for his son, Darren). But that money won’t stop Phua from facing his day in court, one he hopes to use to prove his innocence.
Phua pleased not guilty to charges that he helped operate an illegal gambling ring. The plea was entered in federal court on Tuesday, where US Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach set a September 29 trial date for Phua.
Darren Phua also pleaded not guilty, and was assigned the same court date.
“We adamantly maintain our innocence,” said David Chesnoff, the lawyer representing Paul Phua.
Paul and Darren Phua were among eight defendants that were arrested last month in the wake of a raid on three villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. All eight defendants were charged with one count of transmission of illegal wagering information and another of operating an illegal gambling business, both of which are felony charges. The defendants are accused of running a World Cup betting ring out of the villas, one that took in millions in illegal bets over the course of the tournament.
Paul Phua is now facing charges in two jurisdictions related to World Cup gambling. Phua was part of a group of more than 20 people who were arrested in Macau on June 18 for running a similar operation. Officials allege that after being released on bail, Phua traveled on his $48 million private jet (which was later confiscated as part of his bail conditions) to Las Vegas and resumed the operation from the villas.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this case, however is the involvement of a number of high-stakes poker pros. Players including Â Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl, and Daniel Cates have put up millions of their own money to post bail for various defendants in the case. And while there have been no charges filed against any of these prominent poker players, several have made public statements in support of the Phuas and other defendants.
For instance, Tom Dwan was with the Phuas at the time of their arrest. He has since been seen talking to defense lawyers in court, and signed an affidavit questioning the tactics of the arresting agents. Dwan is also hosting defendant Hui Tang while he is out on bail, while Richard Yong and his son Wai Kin Yong will be staying with Gabe Patgorski.
These connections were forged during high-stakes poker games, which both the Phuas an the Yongs are known to take part in. Paul Phua is said to have played in the biggest cash games in Macau and Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Richard Yong may be best known in poker circles for his eighth place finish in the 2012 Big One for One Drop tournament. The Yongs are expected to be arraigned on Thursday.
Prosecutors allege that Richard Yong and Paul Phua both played major roles in the operation of the betting ring. The FBI has also alleged that Phua was a “high-ranking member of the 14K Triad,” one of the world’s largest criminal organizations. However, that allegation has been strongly denied by Phua’s attorney.