Earlier this month, eight people were arrested in connection with an illegal betting operation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Two of those men were Wei Seng “Paul” Phua, 50, a high-stakes Macau businessman who plays online under the moniker “MalACEsia,” and his 22-year-old son Wai Kit "Darren" Phua. The two were held on $2 million and $500,000 bonds, respectively, which were paid last week by professional poker players Phil Ivey and Andrew Robl.
Now, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that despite their efforts, which saw Ivey pay $1 million ($500,000 for Darren’s bond and $500,000 toward the elder Phua) and Robl $1.5 million, both Phuas remain behind bars. That’s because after their bail was made — which also included Phua putting up his $48 million personal jet as collateral — agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took both men into custody for possible deportation and to the Henderson Detention Center.
“Our clients have complied with every condition set by a federal judge for their release,” said David Chesnoff, a lawyer representing the Phuas. Chesnoff is the same attorney who represented Ivey during Ivey’s messy divorce case. “We have repeatedly attempted to contact ICE authorities, who have not responded. We are going to take further legal steps.”
Upon making bail, U.S Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman ordered both Phuas to “stay on home detention with electronic monitoring,” but before that could happen, ICE, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, took the Phuas into custody.
Ivey and Robl have played against Phua numerous times in the renowned Macau “Big Game”, as well as in high-stakes tournaments around the world. Likewise, Tom “durrrr” Dwan is a regular in the Macau game, and he has come to the support of the Phuas.
Dwan was with both men when FBI agents arrested them on July 13, and he subsequently filed a sworn affidavit questioning the tactics of those agents. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is also reporting that Dwan was in federal court when the Phuas made their initial appearances and that he “had private discussions with defense lawyers throughout the court appearances.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal previously reported that Phua, his son, Richard Yong, and five other Malaysian and Chinese Nationals were taking illegal World Cup wagers when their multimillion-dollar operation was raided by FBI agents.
The criminal complaint alleges that Phua, who was arrested in Macau on June 18 for an illegal gambling operation, was known to be a high-ranking member of one of the largest criminal organizations in the world called the 14K Triad, a Hong Kong-based organization that specializes in illegal gambling and prostitution.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reported that U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn is campaigning against the Phuas and has hinted some poker players may have been involved in the illegal gambling operation:
"At a July 14 hearing in Las Vegas, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn said Phua told court officials that he was worth $300 million to $400 million, but he is thought to be worth much more.
"He told FBI agents during the Caesars Palace raid that he had wagered hundreds of millions of dollars on sporting events since he arrived in Las Vegas in late June. He also said he bought a widely known sports betting service in Asia for $200 million and paid $48 million for his Gulfstream jet.
"Frayn sought to keep both Phuas, who are not U.S. citizens, behind bars, arguing they were threats to flee. Without citing names, Frayn said a number of Paul Phua’s poker associates might have been involved in illegal activity uncovered by the FBI investigation, which is continuing. There has been talk that more arrests are coming."
PokerNews will have more on this story as details become available. For more on this story, head on over to the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.