Poker high roller Paul Phua has gone from suspected international criminal to receiving roundabout apologies from the US federal court system.
Last week, Nevada District Judge Andrew Gordon ruled that the FBI went too far in its search regarding Phua’s Las Vegas gambling ring that investigators suspected was accepting bets on the 2014 World Cup.
“Permitting the government to create the need for the occupant to invite a third party into his or her home would effectively allow the government to conduct warrantless searches of the vast majority of residences and hotel rooms in America,” Gordon said.
“The government need only disrupt the phone, cable, Internet, or some other ‘non-essential’ service, and reasonable people will opt to invite a third party onto their property to repair it, unwittingly allowing government agents into the most private spaces to view and record whatever and whomever they see.”
Two Wrongs Make It Alright
The FBI knew the 50-year-old was up to some rather shady business dealings in his Caesars Palace villa last July, but they didn’t have the evidence to bring charges.
That’s when the bureau decided to conduct a highly questionable raid posing as computer and Internet repairmen arriving to fix an outage at the residence.
Investigators collected what they sought in video proof that Phua and his team were running a multi-million dollar illegal sports betting business.
The agents wore hidden surveillance cameras to document the interior of the villa and collected footage proving Phua’s breaking of the law. Of course, one major problem remained in that the agents lacked a search warrant.
“It’s a great day for American citizens and Mr. Phua in the rights of privacy and freedom were upheld by the court,” David Chesnoff, attorney for Phua said after the ruling.
Though the 4th Amendment does provide the right of the people to be secure in their homes from government intrusion without a warrant, that doesn’t mean Phua had the right to manage an illegal enterprise from within his residence.
While commentators might argue it doesn’t matter that the FBI broke the law since Phua was doing the same, the Constitution of the United States is the framework of the country and has a longstanding authority over murky legal matters.
Good for Phua, Bad for Others
Phua wasn’t the only one videotaped and accused by the FBI to be involved with the ring. Seven other defendants, including Phua’s 23-year-old son Darren, were also charged.
Darren and five of the defendants pled guilty, paying hefty fines and accepting a five-year probationary period in which they cannot enter the US in exchange for zero jail time. Charges against the seventh perpetrator were dropped.
The expedited plea deals by the Phua six has certainly turned out to be a bad settlement for the offenders as the case eventually attracted national attention due to the government agency’s controversial tactics.
“This case tests the boundaries of how far the government can go when creating a subterfuge to access a suspect’s premises,” Gordon concluded.