As reported by The Inside Word, eight people from Hong Kong, China and Malaysia were accused Monday of operating a temporary, illegal gambling ring from exclusive high-roller villas at a Las Vegas Strip resort that investigators said logged millions of dollars in bets on FIFA World Cup soccer games.
Wei Seng “Paul” Phua, 50, a suspected organised crime member, and the others were named in a criminal complaint detailing the scheme to take bets over WiFi and DSL lines they had casino employees install in their suites at Caesars Palace.
Paul Phua (pictured) is a frequent visitor at Las Vegas poker tables. In 2012, he played in the “Big One for One Drop,” a $1 million buy-in event that also served as a charitable fundraiser for the One Drop water awareness foundation. Phua, along with co-accused Richard Yong, have also been regular attendees at Crown Melbourne’s Aussie Millions poker tournament where their buy-ins for high stakes tournaments and cash games have been in the millions of dollars.
During their arraignment, a federal judge granted a request that Phua and his son, a co-defendant, stay with a Las Vegas doctor and poker enthusiast while awaiting an August 4 preliminary hearing. Phua must post $2 million cash bail, wear a GPS monitoring device and put up his USD $48 million private Gulfstream jet as collateral, among other conditions.
FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents made the arrests last weekend after raids on Wednesday in three Caesars suites. Agents reported finding a laptop computer logging illegal wagers and other records. The criminal complaint noted that at least some transactions in Las Vegas appeared to have been conducted at www.sbobet.com.
U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said the Las Vegas operation began shortly after Phua left the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, where he had been arrested on June 18 and posted bail on similar allegations of illegal wagering on World Cup soccer games.
Last month, the South China Post in Hong Kong reported that police broke up this illegal betting ring at a Macau hotel involving roughly USD $645 million in wagers on the World Cup, including a single wager of USD $51.5 million. The hotel was not named in news reports.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn said in court that Phua told authorities after his arrest he was worth up to USD $400 million. Without citing names, she also said a number of Phua’s poker associates may have been involved in illegal activity uncovered by the FBI investigation.
Phua is from Malaysia. Bogden identified him as a high-ranking member of 14K Triad, an organised Hong Kong crime group. The others arrested were identified as Phua’s son Darren Wai Kit Phua, 22; Seng Chen “Richard” Yong, 56, and Wai Kin Yong, 22, all of Malaysia; Hui Tang, 44, of China; and Yan Zhang, 40, Yung Keung Fan, 46, and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, 36, all of Hong Kong.
Bogden said that if convicted, each could face up to two years in federal prison on an unlawful transmission count and up to five years in prison on an illegal gambling business count, as well as fines on each count of up to USD $250,000.
The prosecutor said casino officials cooperated in setting up computer equipment in the three rooms but became concerned that the arrangement, which featured multiple monitors and large television screens tuned to World Cup games, appeared to be a setup for an illegal gambling operation.