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FBI ruse violated rights of Paul Phua


A federal judge ruled last Friday that the FBI violated the rights of Malaysian businessman Paul Phua when agents posed as Internet repairmen to gain access to his Las Vegas hotel suite to search for evidence of illegal gambling during the World Cup last year.

“The government violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights” against unreasonable searches and seizures, said U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon.

Investigators had enlisted a Caesars contractor to shut off Internet access so agents disguised as repairmen could enter with hidden cameras. “This had implications for all Americans,” defense attorney David Chesnoff said, hailing the decision as a victory for freedom. “Law enforcement can’t break something in your house and pose as repair people to get inside,” Chesnoff said.

Paul Phua has been characterized as a top member of an Asian organized crime syndicate, and had previously been arrested and charged with operating an illegal sports betting business in Macau. 

Gordon’s 22-page ruling called the evidence collected from Phua’s suite “fruits of an unconstitutional search,” and said it can’t be used if the government presses forward with charges that Phua operated an illegal gambling business and transmitted wagering information, charges that each carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

Federal prosecutors conceded mistakes had been made, but argued that the government did nothing malicious and had not violated Phua’s constitutional rights.

Phua, 50, is the last remaining defendant among eight people arrested in the case, including his son Darren Wai Kit Phua, 23.

Darren Phua was the last of six defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, forfeit large amounts of money and return to Asia under plea deals banning them from travel to the U.S. for five years. Charges against one other defendant were dismissed.


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