Darren Phua is headed home to Malaysia after pleading guilty to participating in an illegal online sports betting operation, but his father will continue to fight his own charges.
Darren Phua is the 23-year-old son of noted high-stakes poker player Wei Seng ‘Paul’ Phua, and both father and son were among the eight individuals arrested last July at three luxury villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Five other defendants have already reached plea deals, while charges against a sixth defendant were dropped.
On Friday, Darren Phua pled guilty to a single charge of transmitting wagering information, for which he was fined $100k and ordered to forfeit $125k. As with the other plea deals, Phua was put on five years probation, during which time he has to give the US of A a wide berth.
News of Darren’s plea deal first surfaced on Thursday when his attorneys told US District Judge Andrew Gordon that their Malaysian-born client had grown homesick after spending the past seven months under house arrest in Las Vegas. On Friday, Phua’s attorney Richard Schonfeld said his client felt he was trapped in “a nightmare that he has been unable to wake up from.”
The Phuas were arrested after the FBI shut off the villas’ internet connection, then sent in agents disguised as tech support equipped with hidden body cameras to obtain proof of the suspected bookmaking operation. Phua’s attorneys have argued that these tactics violated their clients’ constitutional protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
In February, US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen recommended tossing the evidence obtained during the FBI raid. Prosecutors are attempting to have Leen’s recommendation overturned, as they aren’t confident of securing a conviction without this evidence.
On Friday, Schonfeld said that “as a result of the legal successes in this case, Darren was presented with an opportunity to accept a lesser charge. While we are all confident in the strength of our case and believe we would have ultimately prevailed, this is the best outcome for Darren.”
Schonfeld added that Paul Phua – the lone defendant yet to reach a deal – would continue to fight the charges. Phua is due in Gordon’s court on April 13.