Darren Phua to Plead Guilty in Betting Ring Case

Posted on March 6th, 2015 by Jon Pineda
Paul Phua

Paul and Darren Phua are the final two defendants in the case of an alleged illegal sports betting ring being operated out of a Caesars Palace villa. (Image: AP)

Darren Phua worked for months in an attempt to beat the charges against him. But now, the son of Malaysian businessman Paul Phua is set to make a deal with federal prosecutors, one that will see him plead guilty to lesser charges before his case went to court. Darren, 23, made it clear that he plans to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge for the transmission of wagering information, a crime that will likely come with no jail time for him.

US District Judge Andrew Gordon set a time of Friday at 10 am for Phua to enter that plea into the court. As of yet, there has been no public filing of the plea agreement. However, it’s likely that he will receive a sentence similar to that of five other defendants that have already settled their cases.

In those instances, the defendants were given five years of probation, during which time they will not be allowed to visit the United States. In addition, those defendants faced various fines; Darren Phua will be required to forfeit $125,000 and electronic equipment that was seized in a July 9 raid on the Caesars Palace villa where he and his associates were staying.

Homesick Phua Wishes to Return to Malaysia

According to Richard Schonfeld, the Las Vegas lawyer who is representing Darren Phua, Darren decided to plead guilty because he is “ready to go home,” as he feels homesick from spending nine months in Las Vegas with his father dealing with the charges against them. Darren would likely return back to Malaysia, where he would be able to spend time with family and friends.

The Phuas were just two of the initial eight defendants in the case, which began in July. That’s when the Phuas and some of their associates were accused of running a World Cup betting ring from the three Caesars Palace villas that they were staying in. After a controversial ruse allowed FBI agents to gain access to the rooms by posing as Internet technicians, a raid on July 9 led to the arrest of the defendants and the seizure of numerous electronic devices, including computers, iPads and cellphones.

Most Defendants Have Entered Plea Agreements

Since then, five of the defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, while a sixth saw the charges against him dropped. That left only the Phuas to fight against the accusations in court. The case against them relied heavily on the evidence gained from that July 9 raid, but whether that evidence could be used was put into question after US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen found that the sworn affidavit used to get the search warrant by FBI agents for the July 9 raid was riddled with “false and misleading statements.” That led her to recommend that the evidence from the raid be tossed from the case.

Federal prosecutors have disputed Leen’s take on the affidavit. They say that they cannot make their case without the evidence from that raid, and have appealed to Judge Gordon to reject Leen’s findings.

With Darren’s decision to enter a guilty plea, only Paul Phua is left with the option of going to trial. At the moment, that trial is set to begin on April 13. Paul Phua is a well-known figure in the world of high-stakes poker, and has received visible (and monetary) support from notables including Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan as the case has proceeded.

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