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Subterfuge tactic in Gaming case looms in federal court

26 March 2015

Present in court on Monday prosecutors and defence lawyers were debating the validity of an FBI search warrant and an unprecedented tactic, agents used to gain access to luxury Strip villas before raiding an international betting operation. Prosecutors was in an attempt to convince U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon not to accept a magistrate judge’s recommendation to throw out related evidence seized at the Caesar Palace villas in July 2014 because of an inconspicuous search warrant affidavit.

Defence lawyers wanted Judge Andrew Gordon to rule against the magistrate judge’s findings that the tactic was constitutional. Judge Andrew Gordon acknowledged the case is precedent, and advised to issue his verdict after a 90 minute court hearing. Gordon questioned where the government should “draw the line” in orchestrating future tactics to pursue potential criminal activity. According to prosecutors, the case imminently involves millions of dollars in illegal wagers, accepted by online gaming operations related to the World Cup football tournament last year. Wealthy Malaysian businessman, Paul Phua is the remaining defendant. Six other international defendants, including his son Darren Phua, pleaded guilty to charges and has subsequently left the country under five years unsupervised probation.

Prosecutors have disclosed that this illegal gambling case will be more difficult to prove without the evidence seized in the Caesars Palace raid. Assistant U.S. Attorney, Kimberly Frayn advised Judge Andrew Gordon on Monday, that any misleading statements agents made in the search warrant affidavit, were not intentional and not enough to warrant throwing out of evidence. However, defence lawyer Thomas Goldstein argued the warrant process was inadmissible since its inception.

Phua, a well-known poker player is to stand trial on illegal gambling charges before Judge Andrew Gordon on June 1st 2015. The FBI assert to claim him tied to the powerful Chinese crime syndicate known as the 14K Triad. However his lawyers have strongly denied the claim, arguing FBI agents presented unprecedented evidence in court papers. This case has attracted national and international attention because of Phua’s prominence in the poker community and subterfuge, which defence lawyers argued has not been used as a law enforcement tactic.

However U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen also found that the search warrant affidavit was inconspicuous because of several errors and had lacked probable cause to justify the July 09th, 2014 Caesars search. Her recommendation sees the present evidence as inadmissible.

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