Phil Ivey and
another big-name professional poker player posted $2.5 million in cash last
week to bail out key defendants charged in an international illegal sports
betting operation that FBI agents busted at Caesars Palace
But the two
defendants, wealthy businessman Wei Seng Paul Phua and son Darren
Phua, both Malaysian citizens, still were behind bars Sunday because federal
immigration authorities detained them for possible deportation.
Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, the lead investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, took custody of the Phuas after their bail was posted. Both men were
listed in ICE custody Sunday at the Henderson Detention Center, records show.
Full Tilt, then based in Alderney in the Channel Islands, was quickly
found to have a black hole in its books Las Vegas lawyer David Chesnoff, who
represents the Phuas with his partner Richard Schonfeld, said the defense team
planned to challenge the ICE detention.
Our clients have complied
with every condition set by a federal judge for their release, Chesnoff
said. We have repeatedly attempted to contact ICE authorities, who have
not responded. We are going to take further legal steps.
Chesnoff said he was outraged that the
executive branch of government wont honor a judicial branch order.
Ivey, a 10-time World Series of Poker champion who lives in Las Vegas,
put up $1 million $500,000 toward Paul Phuas $2 million bail and
the entire $500,000 bond for his son, according to court papers filed last week
by Chesnoff and Schonfeld.
Andrew Robl, another icon on the
professional poker circuit, posted the other $1.5 million of the elder
Phuas bail, the court papers show.
In an earlier sworn affidavit,
Robl, who also lives in Las Vegas, said he has been a friend of Paul Phua for
four years and planned to cash $1.5 million in poker chips he won at the Aria
resort to help cover his bail.
Ivey and Robl arent the only poker
stalwarts to rally behind the Phuas in the criminal case. Another big-name
poker player, Tom Dwan, was with Paul Phua and his son when FBI agents arrested
them earlier this month and signed a sworn affidavit questioning the tactics of
Dwan also was present in federal court when the Phuas made
initial appearances on illegal gambling charges with six other defendants. He
had private discussions with defense lawyers throughout the court appearances.
Chesnoff, who also represents Ivey, called him the top poker
player in the world. Ivey won his 10th World Series of Poker gold
bracelet last month at the Rio Convention Center, tying him for second on the
all-time winners list.
Ivey, who went through a bitter public
divorce, is not a stranger to controversy. His latest bout with the courts
occurred in April, when the Borgata in Atlantic City filed a federal lawsuit
alleging he won $9.6 million in high-stakes baccarat in 2012 through cheating.
Ivey strongly denied the claim and sought to dismiss the suit.
50, a frequent player at poker tables in Las Vegas and Macau, and the other
defendants were taken into custody by FBI agents on the Strip July 13 following
a raid days earlier on the multimillion-dollar sports betting operation that
took wagers on the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil. The raid occurred at
three exclusive Caesars Palace villas after the Strip resort tipped off
authorities to the operation. Caesars Palace was not a target of the
In a criminal complaint, the FBI alleged that the elder
Phua was known by law enforcement to be a high-ranking member of the 14K
Triad, one of the largest criminal syndicates in the world.
Kong-based 14K Triad specializes in drug trafficking and traditional forms of
criminal activity, including illegal gambling, prostitution and loan sharking.
Phua and more than 20 other people were arrested June 18 in Macau for
running a large gambling operation that took in hundreds of millions of dollars
in illegal bets on the World Cup tournament, the Las Vegas FBI complaint
After his arrest in Macau, Phua was released on bail and flew
to Las Vegas on his private jet, where he and his associates are alleged to
have resumed their illegal gambling at Caesars Palace, according to the
At a July 14 hearing in Las Vegas , Assistant U.S. Attorney
Kimberly Frayn said Phua told court officials that he was worth $300 million to
$400 million, but he is thought to be worth much more.
He told FBI
agents during the Caesars Palace raid that he had wagered hundreds of millions
of dollars on sporting events since he arrived in Las Vegas in late June. He
also said he bought a widely known sports betting service in Asia for $200
million and paid $48 million for his Gulfstream jet.
Frayn sought to
keep both Phuas, who are not U.S. citizens, behind bars, arguing they were
threats to flee. Without citing names, Frayn said a number of Paul Phuas
poker associates may have been involved in illegal activity uncovered by the
FBI investigation, which is continuing. There has been talk that more arrests
But Chesnoff and Schonfeld, who denied Phua was tied to
organized crime, attacked the governments case in court and persuaded a
federal magistrate to release both defendants from custody with restrictions.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman ordered Paul Phua to put up the $2
million bail along with his jet as collateral. Hoffman also ordered the jet to
be used as collateral for the 22-year-old Darren Phuas 500,000 bail.
Both defendants were ordered to stay on home detention with electronic
monitoring in the third-party custody of a Las Vegas physician who befriended
the elder Phua while playing poker.
But their release didnt
happen because ICE grabbed the defendants before they could be freed and placed
them in its custody.
Ivey also posted $500,000 bail for Wai Kin Yong
and another half-million towards the $1.5 million bail of Wai Kins
father, Seng Chen Richard Yong.
Jungleman12? Cates posted the remaining $1 million of Richard Yongs
bail. At 56 years of age, Yong is a Malaysian junketeer and has a presence in
high stakes cash games around the world. He was also one of the players to
participate in the $1 million buy-in for the first Big One for One Drop charity
poker event in 2012.
So while Phil Ivey must still dodge some legal
hurdles of his own with the edge sorting claims from Crockfords and Borgata, he
is doing his best to help others with their troubles. Besides securing the
eventual release of Paul Phua and his son Darren Phua last week, three more men
have now been released on bail with the support of Ivey and other notable poker