High roller of the Caesars
Meanwhile early last June during the World Cup opening games, three complimentary villas on the Las Vegas strip in the famed Caesars Palace - numbered 8881, 8882 and 8888 - were readied for him - a red carpet welcome fit for a high roller.
Phua is reportedly also known to be actively involved in the gambling scene around Southeast Asia and internationally, even taking part in poker tournaments where stakes go up to seven-figure pots.
The FBI notes tell of how the reserved exclusive villas were fitted with various electronic equipment and communication facilities like fax machines and DSL cables at the request of the guests.
This smelt fishy, according to the FBI report, and the Caesars’ management at that point began to suspect the villas were being used as gambling dens.
Phua and his team had demanded complementary Wi-Fi with the installation of DSL lines and requested an "unusual amount of electronics equipment and technical support" for the villas to monitor World Cup soccer games in Brazil.
This was when the management realised the villas were being used to conduct an illegal Internet sports betting operation and they proceeded to inform the authorities, particularly the FBI.
The FBI, which was already keeping an eye on Phua after his elusive escape from Macau, decided to investigate the villas sending operatives posing as technicians.
Snooping in for the swoop
A Caesars Palace investigator told FBI agents that in one villa alone there were eight computers, five workstations, over 20 monitors, and additional large-screen televisions and Internet lines.
The court exhibits also show that the authorities worked alongside the DSL contractor to obtain enough evidence to raid the villas.
"The DSL contractor was sent to villa 8882 on July 4, 2014 to deliver a laptop requested by the occupants. That same day, the contractor also temporarily disconnected the internet service to villa 8881.
"When the defendants (Phua and associates) asked Caesars to restore the DSL connection in villa 8881, the DSL contractor entered alone and on his own initiative, used his cell phone to make a video of the Villa’s interior, which he delivered to the authorities," the district attorney states in their defence.
Convinced they had a case, the FBI decided to see from themselves before launching a raid of the premises.
The very next day, FBI agents posed as DSL technicians and entered villa 8882 to confirm that illegal betting was taking place, on the pretext of restoring Internet connection in the villa that was disconnected earlier.
Four days later, on July 9, 2014, the FBI and Nevada Gaming Board Control stormed the three villas after obtaining a search warrant from a US magistrate judge.
Preparing themselves like a scene from the movies, the authorities arrived at Caesars in street clothes and prepped themselves in three rooms in the hotel.
Once the operation was given the go ahead, they suited up and followed a Caesars employee who led the agents into the villas via the internal service elevators.
The authorities reported that they found Phua in villa 8882 with his son and another associate, where an online message found on his computer revealed that he had put bets reaching a grand total of HK$2.7billion (RM1.24 billion), according to court documents.
The accused were stated using the SBOBet and IBCBet sports betting websites, neither of which is licensed to operate in Nevada, to monitor odds and place bets, according to federal prosecutors.
The authorities did not arrest them that day itself, but took pictures of the equipment installed in the room and seized the items.
The notes from the FBI in the 295-page exhibit ends at this point.'
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