Paul Phua has been on house arrest in Las Vegas since being charged in July of 2014 for operating an illegal World Cup betting ring from a $25,000-a-night Caesars Palace villa.
That’s likely to change following US District Judge Andrew Gordon’s decision to block evidence obtained by the FBI in what has been called an unjust investigation.
Once a poker high roller who likely would have traveled to Vegas for the $500,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl at the Rio later this month, Phua is now just trying to get out of town.
Following Judge Gordon’s ruling, his defense team requested that his house arrest be lifted and permit the Malaysian businessman and alleged organized crime member to be allowed to travel home to see his ailing mother who is battling pancreatic cancer.
“Mr. Phua is not looking to flee,” his lawyers said in a court filing. “He seeks to prove his innocence and to restore his reputation.”
There’s only one issue with Phua being permitted to depart the United States to travel back to Malaysia, and that’s the fact that he no longer has a valid visa to re-enter the country for his trial slated to begin on June 15th.
It’s a rather ironic, borderline comical development that signals the sometimes absurdity of the law.
Prosecutors are arguing against his release since being an accused criminal by the Department of Justice wouldn’t permit such a person from obtaining a new visa.
However, Phua’s defense argues that notion is entirely ludicrous since the government could unquestionably make sure his re-entry is permitted.
The probe into Phua’s business activity last summer and subsequent raid is nothing short of a total sham, tactics Judge Gordon called “unconstitutional” in his ruling.
Though the FBI’s undercover sting in which they posed as computer technician repair personnel after shutting off the Internet proved Phua and his associates were operating an illegal betting ring, the warrantless undercover nature of the search led to the surveillance footage being dismissed.
Without any concrete proof permissible in court, prosecutors have little to run on. “As matters stand, the government has no basis to detain defendant because, in addition to the presumption of innocence, there is so far as can be determined no evidence with which to prosecute him,” Phua’s lawyers wrote.
However, two options remain for a potential guilty verdict.
First, the US attorney’s office in Las Vegas is considering appealing Judge Gordon’s ruling through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which if successful, would reinstate the evidence collected during the questionable search.
If the appeal fails, prosecutors will have to run on the fact that six other defendants already pleaded guilty in exchange for probationary sentences without any jail time.
Those deals were struck before the court ruled the collected evidence was inadmissible.
Convicting Phua based on the fact his associates fessed to the crime won’t be an easy task, continuing to signal that the Malaysian will be flying home a free man on his $48 million private jet in due time.