8 accused of illegal World Cup betting in Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Eight people from Malaysia, China and Hong Kong 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 Phua, 50, a suspected organized 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.
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 Aug. 4 preliminary hearing.
Phua must post $2 million cash bail, wear a GPS monitoring device and put up his $48 million private Gulfstream jet as collateral, among other conditions.
Phua’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, argued in court that his client has the means to leave the country but has cooperated with authorities since a July 9 raid.
“He had access to an aircraft that can fly anywhere in the world,” Chesnoff said of Phua, who has an estimated worth of as much as $400 million. “In fact, he stayed here.”
FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents made the arrests Sunday 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 over a website called “SBOBET.”
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 June 18 and posted bail on similar allegations of illegal wagering on World Cup soccer games.
Phua is from Malaysia. Bogden identified him as a high-ranking member of 14K Triad, an organized crime group.
In court, Chesnoff questioned whether the triad was still operating or whether the allegation was “historical.”
The others arrested were identified as Phua’s son Darren Wai Kit Phua, 22; Seng Chen 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.
None of the suspects entered pleas at the hearing.
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 $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.