Five Paul Phua defendants to plead guilty; Thomas Vanek’s bookie pleads guilty

TAGs: National Hockey League, New York, paul phua, richard yong, sports betting, thomas vanek

richard-yong-thomas-vanek-sports-bettingFive of the eight defendants in the Paul Phua illegal sports betting case have reportedly agreed to plead guilty, although Phua intends to keep fighting. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the five – Richard Yong (pictured, on the left), Hui Tang, Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan and Herman Chun Sang Yeung – will plead guilty on Tuesday and Wednesday, with sentences expected the same week.

Tang has agreed to plead guilty to a felony gambling charge while the others have bargained their way down to misdemeanors. The five will receive probation and will be allowed to return to their homes in China and Malaysia. Charges against a sixth defendant, Yong’s son Wai Kin Yong, have been dismissed.

That leaves just Phua and his son Darren still willing to battle the feds. This week saw their lawyers file court papers challenging (a) the feds’ unsupported allegations that Phua has links to Hong Kong’s triads and (b) the duplicitous tactics the feds employed to gather evidence that led to this summer’s raids on the three Caesars Palace luxury villas in which Phua & Co. had established their online betting set-up.

A guilty plea was entered Friday by New York bookie Joseph Ruff, who was indicted in June for running an illegal sports betting operation out of a Rochester restaurant. Ruff is looking at a 41-month prison sentence after reaching a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to illegal gambling, extortion and money laundering. Ruff’s brother Mark pled guilty to similar charges in October for his involvement in the ring, which the feds say handled $76m in wagers since launching in January 2012. The classic credit betting operation utilized password-protected websites to process the wagers while accounts were settled in person.

Among those who wagered with Ruff was National Hockey League player Thomas Vanek (pictured, on the right). In his court appearance on Friday, Ruff admitted to extorting $230k from Vanek to cover his gambling losses. Ruff claimed Vanek, who has cooperated with police, owed the betting operation $10m as a result of his lost wagers on football. Vanek’s agent Steve Bartless called the $10m figure “absolute fantasy” and a “complete fabrication.”

Whatever Vanek’s losses, Ruff’s extortion charges were the result of attempts to get Vanek to make good on his markers. Vanek was found to have endorsed a $230k paycheck from the New York Islanders after Ruff told Vanek that he (Ruff) would be subject to physical harm if Vanek didn’t make some kind of payment. Investigators have found no evidence that Vanek ever bet on hockey games.


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