Seven men and a woman, including four Malaysians, have been charged with operating an illegal World Cup gambling ring from three Caesars Palace hotel villas in Las Vegas.
US authorities named the four Malaysians as Phua Wei Seng, 50, Darren Phua Wai Kit, 22, Yong Seng Chen, 56, and Yong Wai Kin, 22.
Their alleged accomplices were three Hong Kongers and a mainland Chinese.
Phua Wei Seng, in particular, was known to be a high-ranking member of 14K Triad, which is based in Hong Kong and is engaged in an ongoing illegal criminal enterprise.
According to a formal complaint filed by federal authorities on July 14, a copy of which was obtained by The New Paper, Phua and his associates transacted hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars in illegal bets on the recent World Cup.
Most of their bets were made online and over the phone.
The defendants were arrested in Las Vegas on July 13 by law enforcement agents with the FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Casino officials had become suspicious of the elaborate set-up, multiple monitors and large television screens tuned in to World Cup games in the three villas, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Phua arrived in Las Vegas on a privately-owned Gulfstream jet from Macau on June 23.
He had purchased his jet for US$48 million (S$60 million) through a broker in China, according to the court papers.
Phua is estimated to be worth as much as US$400 million, reported the SCMP.
FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Boards agents raided the rooms on July 9.
According to court papers, Phua said he was watching the World Cup and monitoring the betting odds when FBI agents entered.
He said he had wagered between HK$200 million and HK$300 million on the World Cup since he arrived at the villa on June 23.
He had also invested millions on an "IBC" sports betting website that his son, Darren Phua, was using.
ANALYSIS OF LAPTOP
An analysis of Darren Phua's laptop revealed messages indicating that he was taking bets for an individual on several occasions.
On one match, the individual asked him, "Can I bet 13k on Argentina w you as well" on July 9.
Darren Phua replied: "OK, let me make a call."
He later responded to another individual: "Good luck to us!"
One information technology technician, hired as a subcontractor to provide technical support services to Caesars Hotel, testified that he has never received such a large amount of equipment and technical support requests from hotel guests there.
When he delivered a laptop to one of the villas, he was confronted by an aggressive and intimidating Asian butler who restricted his access to the villas.
But the technician managed to see a monitor depicting odds for sports gambling.
Each defendant has been charged with one count of unlawful transmission of wagering information and one count of operating an illegal gambling business.
If convicted, they face up to two years in jail on the unlawful transmission count and up to five years in jail for operating an illegal gambling business.
They also face fines of up to US$250,000 on each count, according to an FBI press release.
OK, let me make a call.
This article was first published on July 22, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.