LAS VEGAS (AP) - Bolstered by a federal judge’s ruling that the FBI violated a wealthy Malaysian businessman’s constitutional rights when agents searched his Las Vegas Strip suite last summer, defense attorneys are trying to get the case thrown out.
Wei Seng “Paul” Phua’s lawyers say in one recent court filing that the fruits of an illegal search shouldn’t be used to press criminal allegations that before his arrest Phua headed an international Internet gambling ring that handled about $13 million in illegal bets on the FIFA World Cup.
In separate documents filed Tuesday, attorneys David Chesnoff and Thomas Goldstein accuse deputy U.S. attorneys of prosecutorial misconduct, and ask U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon in Las Vegas to punish the government by suppressing key evidence in the case.
The government must be held accountable, Goldstein said.
And if that doesn’t work, the defense lawyers want the judge to at least end GPS monitoring and let Phua travel abroad pending trial. His 51st birthday is this week.
“He is not a flight risk and has had the courage to remain and fight for his liberty,” the defense attorneys said in an email Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden declared that the case isn’t over, and he declined to respond to the requests filings by the defense.
“This is an active criminal case and is still being litigated,” Bogden said. “Therefore, we will not be making any comments on the case other than in our court filings.”
Phua’s lawyers’ efforts point to the judge’s April 17 ruling that agents violated Phua’s rights against unreasonable search when they posed as Internet repairmen last July to get into Phua’s high-security luxury villa at Caesars Palace.
One document, filed Friday, asks the judge to order the government to specify what evidence it still has that proves Phua operated an illegal gambling business and unlawfully transmitted bets and wagers.
“We are asking the government to provide us with facts so we can fairly defend ourselves,” Chesnoff and Goldstein said.
The attorneys note in a separate filing that following his arrest last July, Phua posted his $50 million private jet as collateral, plus $2 million cash, to be freed from custody. His trial is scheduled June 1.
“It is wholly unnecessary to prohibit him from visiting his family and home in the interim,” the document says.
Gordon ruled this month that FBI and Nevada gambling regulatory agents shouldn’t have enlisted a Caesars contractor to shut off Internet access so agents disguised as repairmen could enter wearing lapel cameras.
The ruling effectively gutted the criminal prosecution by throwing out evidence collected from Phua’s suite as fruits of an unconstitutional search. But it didn’t kill the case outright.
Prosecutors have characterized Phua as a top member of an Asian organized crime syndicate who flew to Las Vegas on his private jet just days after having been arrested and charged with operating an illegal sports-betting business in the Asian gambling hub of Macau.
They said about $13 million in bets had been wagered before the FBI, working with Nevada gambling regulators, raided three Caesars Palace villas where Phua, his son and several other people were staying. Agents seized computers, cellphones and cash.
Chesnoff and Goldstein dispute allegations that their client had criminal ties. They say he has a respected hotel and mining businessman in Malaysia.
Phua’s son, Darren Wai Kit Phua, 23, and six other defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the Las Vegas case, forfeited large amounts of money and returned to Asia under plea deals banning them from travel to the U.S. for five years. Charges against one defendant were dismissed.
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