Darren Phua To Plead Guilty In Sports Betting Case

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Darren Phua case plea deal
Paul Phua may be the only remaining defendant in the Caesars Palace sports betting ring case after his son Darren accepted a plea deal. (Image: AP)

Darren Phua plans to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge in relation to accusations that he helped operate an illegal sports betting ring out of a Caesars Palace villa.

That deal would leave his father, Malaysian businessman Paul Phua, as the only remaining defendant in the case.

According to court documents filed by federal prosecutors in the case, Darren Phua plans to plead guilty to a charge involving the transmission of wagering information.

As a result, he would forfeit $125,000 as well as electronic equipment that was seized in a July 9 raid on the Caesars Palace villa at the center of the sports betting case.

Seven of Eight Defendants Have Resolved Charges

Phua would be the seventh of eight defendants to resolve the case against them. Five other defendants have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges; each received five years of probation during which they agreed to stay out of the United States, and paid a fine. A sixth defendant had the case against him dropped by prosecutors.

This would leave only Paul Phua standing alone as the final defendant in the case. Paul Phua has been the defendant that has attracted the most attention in the case since the beginning, in large part due to the fact that he has been a well-known member of the high-stakes poker community for years.

That status helped both he and Darren to receive significant financial and moral support from prominent professional poker players, including Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl and Tom Dwan.

Case Against Phuas on Shaky Ground

The case against the Phuas has faced some significant challenges in recent weeks. US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen made a recommendation to toss much of the evidence collected in the case after determining that a sworn affidavit by FBI agents, used to secure a search warrant to raid the villa, contained “false and misleading statements” that materially damaged the request.

“I’m pleased that her honor recognized that law enforcement must not be reckless nor omit vital information when seeking a warrant,” Paul Phua’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, said after that decision was reached.

Federal prosecutors are attempting to challenge this recommendation, hoping that US District Judge Andrew Gordon will choose not to accept those findings and allow the bulk of the evidence against the Phuas to be used in court. According to prosecutors, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make their case without that evidence.

But Darren Phua’s decision to accept a plea bargain will mean that the decision on that evidence should have no impact on his future. That plea agreement has yet to be made public, and there is no scheduled date for him to enter the plea in court. However, there is a status check on the case scheduled for Thursday, during which more details of the plea agreement or the fight over admitting evidence could become clear. The case is still set to go to trial on April 13.

Richard Schonfeld, the Las Vegas lawyer representing Darren Phua, has not commented on the plea deal.

The Phuas are accused of helping to run an illegal World Cup betting ring last summer out of a Caesars Palace villa. The two were arrested following a July 9 raid on that villa that led to the confiscation of numerous computers, tablets and cellphones.

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