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Jeff German

Defendants in World Cup betting case want poker ban lifted

7 January 2015

Federal prosecutors are opposing a bid by wealthy Malaysian businessman Paul Phua and his son to remove a court order prohibiting them from playing poker in casinos while they await trial on illegal gambling charges.

Phua and his son, Darren Phua, were among eight defendants charged in a multimillion-dollar scheme that accepted wagers on the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil last year.

Five defendants from Malaysia and China pleaded guilty last month and were each fined and sentenced to five years of probation with the condition they stay out of the United States during that period. The case against a sixth defendant was dismissed.

The elder Phua, who is well known at Las Vegas poker tables, and his son are free on a combined $2.5 million in bail posted by World Series of Poker champion Phil Ivey and another professional poker player.

In court papers last month, defense lawyers David Chesnoff and Thomas Goldstein said the Phuas have complied with the terms of their pre-trial release since their July arrests on the Strip and simply want more freedom. They want to be able to dine, shop and see shows at the casinos, as well.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn responded in writing Monday that the Phuas have failed to establish that the poker ban is too restrictive “in light of the nature of the illegal gambling charges pending against them” stemming from a July 9 FBI-led raid at Caesars Palace - Las Vegas luxury villas.

“The defendants are not lawfully present in the United States,” Frayn wrote. “They are present only until this criminal matter is resolved and then they will be expelled. They are charged with crimes connected to unlawful gaming activities, which they conducted clandestinely on casino premises and which were furthered through associations made and maintained through poker gambling salons located within the casino.”

Chesnoff and Goldstein argued in a reply Tuesday that the allegations in the indictment against the Phuas do not involve “illegal poker playing,” and there is plenty of security at licensed casinos.

“The casinos are highly regulated environments with cameras throughout,” they wrote.

The Phuas’ push to play poker comes while a federal magistrate judge is considering whether to toss out the bulk of the criminal case against them because of due process violations.

Chesnoff and Goldstein contend agents conducted a warrantless search to gather evidence prior to the raid that violated their clients’ constitutional rights.

They also have criticized FBI agents for withholding information from a judge in a search warrant affidavit about the ruse they used to enter one of the villas to gather evidence days earlier.

Agents cut off Internet service inside the villa on July 5 and then entered posing as computer technicians for a Caesars electronics contractor looking to fix the problem.

Prosecutors have alleged that Phua and his group made a $13 million profit in June and July accepting World Cup bets in a scheme that stretched to Macao.
Defendants in World Cup betting case want poker ban lifted is republished from