US federal prosecutors aren’t willing to let accused online sports betting operator Wei Seng ‘Paul’ Phua leave the country while his trial is pending, whether or not he leaves behind his $48m Gulfstream jet as collateral.
Friday saw prosecutors attempting to salvage their case against Phua after US District Judge Andrew Gordon tossed the overwhelming bulk of their evidence on Tuesday. At the same time, Phua’s attorneys attempted to convince Gordon to let their client return to his native Malaysia to see his mother, who is suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer and hasn’t seen her son since he was arrested in Las Vegas last July for allegedly running an illegal online sports betting operation.
The other seven defendants arrested along with Phua have long since left the United States; six reached plea deals with the government while charges against one defendant were dropped. But Phua chose to remain under house arrest in Vegas for the past 10 months, believing – correctly, as it turns out – that the courts would deem the FBI’s questionable evidence-gathering techniques to be unconstitutional.
On Friday, prosecutors protested Phua’s desire to leave the country, arguing that since Phua doesn’t hold a valid visa, he might not be allowed back in. Phua’s attorneys scoffed at this “disingenuous” argument, pointing out that it was hardly beyond the Department of Justice’s ability to have a quiet chat with customs officials regarding the need to let Phua re-enter the country.
Moreover, Phua’s attorneys insist that their client is “not looking to flee; he seeks to prove his innocence and to restore his reputation. Indeed, Mr. Phua has litigated this case even though refusing to plead has separated him from his life and his family for an extended period of time.”
Prosecutors also said they may appeal Gordon’s ruling on the admissibility of the tainted evidence to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Phua attorney David Chesnoff suggested “the better decision would be for law enforcement to learn the important constitutional lesson that you can’t violate the Fourth Amendment and bring closure to this case.” (We like to think Chesnoff then burst into a spirited rendition of Let It Go while Phua accompanied him on a portable Casio keyboard.)
Phua’s trial is scheduled to begin in Vegas on June 15, although what evidence the prosecution will present remains something of a mystery. Prosecutors have previously stated that the inadmissible evidence was crucial to their case.