Wei Seng ‘Paul’ Phua (pictured) has formally entered a ‘not guilty’ plea on charges of running an illegal online sports betting operation out of a rented villa at Caesars Palace casino-hotel in Las Vegas. Phua, the Malaysian high-stakes poker player, reputed owner of Asian online betting giant IBCbet and San Marino’s former ambassador to Montenegro, was one of eight individuals arrested last month in connection with the alleged online betting ring, which the FBI says was set up shortly after Phua was busted for similar shenanigans weeks earlier in Macau, shortly after the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil.
On Tuesday, Phua and his son Wai Kit ‘Darren’ Phua – who was among those arrested in July – appeared in a federal court in Las Vegas. Both men pled not guilty to illegal gambling charges, leading US Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach to set a Sept. 29 trial date for both men. The senior Phua’s attorney David Chesnoff told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his clients “adamantly” maintained their innocence and were looking forward to contesting the charges. Both Phuas are out on $2.5m bail, which was provided by Phua’s poker pals Phil Ivey and Andrew Robi. Co-defendant Seng Chen ‘Richard’ Yong and his son Wai King Yong are also out on bail thanks to the generosity of Ivey and Daniel Cates.
Across the country in New Jersey, federal courts were handing out stiff sentences to individuals connected to the Beteagle.com illegal online sports betting case. US District Judge Claire Cecchi gave 49-year-old John Breheney aka ‘Johnny Fugazi’ 38 months in prison for racketeering conspiracy related to the credit betting operation, which was broken up way back in 2012. Breheney was also hit with a $16k fine and ordered to forfeit $400k in betting proceeds.
Cecchi also doled out 22 months to 75-year-old Patsy Pirozzi aka ‘Uncle Patsy’ on similar charges. Pirozzi was ordered to forfeit $31.5k and will face three years of probation once his prison stint expires. Both Pirozzi and Breheney pled guilty to the charges last year. A third accused, the 37-year-old nickname-deprived Eric Patten, pled guilty on Tuesday to similar charges, for which he faces up to 20 years when his sentence is meted out on Dec. 3. Last week saw five other members of the ring, which had ties to the Genovese crime family, plead guilty before Cecchi, who will pronounce sentence on them all before the year is out.