LAS VEGAS: Four Malaysians were among eight people arrested here over an illegal gambling ring that logged in millions of dollars in bets for World Cup games.
The four were arrested together with four others from Hong Kong and China for allegedly operating the illegal gambling ring, the South China Morning Post reported.
Phua Wei Seng, 50, a former top gaming junket operator at Macau’s Sands casino, was accused with the others of running a scheme that took bets over Wi-fi and DSL lines that asked casino employees to install in their suites at Caesars Palace here.
The others Malaysians arrested were Phua’s son Darren Wai Kit, 22, Yong Seng Chen, 56, and Yong Wai Kin, 22.
The non-Malaysian suspects were Tang Hui, 44, of China, as well as Zhang Yan, 40, Yung Keung Fan, 46, and Herman Chun Sang-yeung, 36, all of Hong Kong.
During their arraignment, a federal judge allowed Phua and his son to stay with a Las Vegas doctor and poker enthusiast while awaiting a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug 4. None of the suspects entered pleas at the hearing.
Phua, also known as Paul Phua on the professional poker game circuit, took part in the original Big One For One Drop tournament at the 2012 World Series of Poker.
Recently, he came in sixth at the 2014 European Poker Tour Grand Final Monte Carlo 100k Super High Roller.
While awaiting hearing, Phua was required to post US$2mil (RM6.37mil) cash bail, wear a GPS monitoring device, and put up his US$48mil (RM152.95mil) private Gulfstream jet as collateral, among other conditions.
Phua’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, argued in court that his client had cooperated with authorities since a July 9 raid, despite having the means to leave the country.
“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 US$400mil (RM1.28bil).
“In fact, he stayed here.”
FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents made the arrests on Sunday after raids in three Caesars Palace suites following tip offs.
While there, agents reported finding a laptop computer logging illegal bets and other records.
US Attorney Daniel Bogden said the Las Vegas operation began shortly after Phua left Macau, where he had been arrested on June 18 but was granted bail for allegations of running an illegal ring that was also targeted at World Cup betting.
Bogden claimed that Phua is a high-ranking member of the Hong Kong-based 14K triad, a global organisation that has dealings in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, prostitution and loan sharking.
Bogden said that if convicted, each defendant 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 US$250,000 (RM800,000).
The prosecutor said Caesers Palace 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 and appeared to be a setup for an illegal gambling operation.