High-Stakes Poker Player Paul Phua Arrested in Illegal World Cup Betting Raid
Paul Phua and Sen Chen (Richard) Yong, wealthy Chinese businessmen and regulars in Macau’s high-stakes poker cash games, were among eight people arrested over the weekend following involvement in an illegal betting operation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Phua, Yong, and six other Malaysian and Chinese Nationals were taking illegal World Cup wagers when the operation was raided by FBI agents. Sources said that the arrests were made at other resorts along the Vegas Strip after the alleged offenders were kicked out of Caesars Palace.
Caesars Palace was not a target of the law enforcement action and cooperated with state and federal authorities, according to the Review-Journal.
A criminal complaint unsealed Monday revealed that Phua, who was charged under the name Wei Seng Phua, was known to be a high-ranking member of one of the largest criminal organizations in the world called the 14K Triad. The Hong Kong-based organization specializes in illegal gambling and prostitution.
Phua's 22-year-old son, Darren Wai Kit Phua, and Yong's 22-year-old son, Wai Kin Yong, were also arrested by FBI agents in Las Vegas over the weekend. The eight defendants appeared in federal court Monday in Las Vegas. Phua is being represented by David Chesnoff, the same attorney who represented Phil Ivey during Ivey’s messy divorce case.
Chesnoff denied in court on Monday that Phua was linked to organized crime and said he was planning to fight the charges. Phua and his son were released on bail Monday but with several restrictions, according to the Journal-Review. The Phuas were ordered to post a combined $2.5 million along with the elder's $48 million private jet as collateral.
Chesnoff said members of the poker community, including high-stakes cash game player Andrew Robl, were rounding up the money for Phau's bail.
Paul Phua and Richard Yong have played in the world’s biggest cash games for several years and have also traveled to play in several high-roller tournaments. In April, Phua finished sixth in the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller for €385,000. He has four live tournament cashes listed on the Hendon Mob, all for more than $340,000. Likewise, Wong is a regular on the high-stakes tournament scene. He took eighth place in the first $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop at the 2012 World Series of Poker for $1,237,333, and has four other cashes on record of more than $500,000.