LAS VEGAS -- The wealthy Malaysian businessman authorities say led a World Cup betting scheme in Las Vegas and his son were released late Monday from the custody of federal immigration officials.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday that Wei Seng “Paul” Phua and his son Darren Phua had been taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for possible deportation after two of the world’s top professional poker players posted $2.5 million in cash to bail them out on illegal gambling charges. The Phuas are Malaysian citizens.
Phil Ivey, a 10-time World Series of Poker champion who lives in Las Vegas, put up $1 million — $500,000 toward Paul Phua’s $2 million bail and the entire $500,000 bond for his son, according to court papers filed last week by their Las Vegas lawyers David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld.
High-rolling poker star Andrew Robl, also a Las Vegas resident, posted the other $1.5 million of the elder Phua’s bail, the court papers show.
“We are gratified that our clients are free, and they’re looking forward to telling their side of the story in court,” Chesnoff said after the Phuas were released from ICE custody at the Henderson Detention Center.
The FBI has alleged that Paul Phua, 50, a frequent player at poker tables in Las Vegas and Macau, is a high-ranking member of the Hong Kong-based 14K Triad, one of the largest criminal syndicates in the world.
Ivey is looking to bail out another defendant charged in the multimillion-dollar betting operation broken up at Caesars Palace earlier this month. The operation accepted wagers on the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil from exclusive suites at Caesars Palace, which was not a target of the investigation.
Ivey is prepared to post a $500,000 cash bond for Wai Kin Yong, 22, another Malaysian citizen who describes himself as a professional poker player, according to court papers filed last week by his San Diego attorney Michael Pancer.
If necessary, Ivey could provide up to $1 million toward Yong’s release from federal custody, Pancer wrote.
Earlier this month, Yong and his father, Seng Chen “Richard” Yong, 56, a junketeer who also is well known in the high-stakes poker world, both were ordered detained as flight risks. The elder Yong, a Malaysian citizen who federal prosecutors allege was one of the ringleaders of the illegal betting operation, is seeking to post his own money to earn his release. He has at least $2 million sitting in a Caesars Palace safe, Pancer wrote.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman Monday set hearings later this week to revisit his detention order for the Yongs.
Another big-name poker professional, Tom Dwan, has played a role in the defense behind the scenes. He was with the Phuas when FBI agents arrested them, and he signed a sworn affidavit questioning the tactics of the agents.
Two more professional poker players have rallied around the defendants, court papers show.
Pancer said in his papers that Gabe Patgorski was prepared to allow both Yongs to live at his Las Vegas home as part of the terms of their release.
Pancer also provided a letter from poker stalwart John Juanda, who said he was shocked to hear about the allegations swirling around his “friend” Richard Yong and Yong’s son.
Juanda, who according to Bluff Magazine has earned more than $14.5 million on the professional poker circuit, described the Yongs as men of “honor and integrity.”