Paul Phua and his son Darren will be the only defendants from the Caesars Palace sports betting ring case to fight their charges in court, as the other six individuals who were indicted have seen their cases concluded through plea deals or other means.
The Phuas are expected to plead not guilty to charges stemming from their alleged roles in operating the sports betting operation, which was based on a villa at the Las Vegas resort.
However, five other defendants have instead decided to reach plea agreements with prosecutors that will likely allow them to avoid jail time.
Richard Yong, Hui Tang, Yung Keung Fan, Herman Chun Sang Yeung and Yan Zhang are all expected to plead guilty this week before US District Judge Andrew Gordon.
Four have agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, while Tang will plead guilty to a felony gambling charge. All five are expecting to receive probation, a sentence that would allow them to return home to Asia.
Feds Hope to Recover $13 Million from Defendants
It’s possible that the five defendants could face financial penalties as well. Federal prosecutors are hoping to recover as much as $13 million in assets from the defendants, a total that includes more than $650 in cash and casino chips seized during the raid on the villas.That raid also recovered nearly 50 cell phones and 17 iPads and computers.
As for Wai Kin Yong, the son of Richard Yong, all charges against him have reportedly been dismissed. Neither his lawyer nor the Nevada US attorney’s office have commented publically on his case.
That leaves only the Phuas left to fight their charges in court. While the evidence that they played a key role in the operation of the illegal sports betting ring may appear to be strong, it’s likely that the case will instead hinge on how the investigation into the ring was conducted, with defense lawyers saying that their clients’ rights may have been violated.
“We are not guilty as we always maintained,” said Las Vegas lawyer David Chesnoff, who is representing the Phuas. “It is our intention to fight the unconstitutional conduct of the deferral government for our clients and for the rest of the public.”
Controversial Tactics Could Destroy Case Against Phuas
Controversy over the FBI’s tactics began soon after the July raid that led to the arrest of the eight initial defendants in this case. The FBI initially gathered evidence against the ring by working with Caesars and service providers to shut off Internet access in the villa where the operation was headquartered.
That inevitably led the defendants to ask for technical support, which allowed the FBI to send agents into the villa posing as technicians.
While undercover work is certainly a common tactic, the fact that the FBI manipulated the defendants’ Internet access in order to be invited into the villa may have been a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, defense lawyers say.
The evidence collected during that visit ultimately allowed officials to obtain a warrant for the raid during which the Phuas and other defendants were arrested.
Lawyers also seem likely to attack the evidence used by FBI agents to connect Paul Phua and Richard Yong to the 14K Triad, one of the world’s largest criminal organizations.
They say that the evidence linking them to the group was “flimsy,” but was still used to convince a judge to issue the warrant that led to their arrests.