Sports betting and Las Vegas goes together like peanut butter and jelly. People the world over know that the gambling capitol of the world is Sin City. Nonetheless, people still try to bend the rules here, looking to circumvent the law on the way to a bigger payout. Oddly enough, the most recent public example of this happening ended with the FBI being guilty.
The FBI’s Suspicions
This past year during the World Cup, gambling was at an annual high all over the globe as fans from all over tried their luck at making a fortune. The FBI, however, had suspicions that many in Las Vegas were doing this illegally. In fact, they believed there was an entire gambling ring operating in the city.
After launching an investigation, evidence suggested that the ring was being run from inside Caesars Palace, spread out over three villas. The problem was that agents didn’t have enough evidence to secure a warrant. This is where they got themselves into trouble.
A Clever Ruse
Obviously, you can’t simply search a property without a warrant. This limitation of the government’s powers is inherent to the American way. Warrantless searches are against the law and generally cause a lot of controversy.
It would appear the FBI agents involved thought that they could get around this problem by being invited into the villas. This is technically true. If the police or federal agents arrived at your home and asked to search it for some reason, you can consent and allow them to do so, even if they don’t have a warrant. With a warrant, they wouldn’t need permission.
Agents were technically invited into the villas, but only because they first had a local Wi-Fi contractor cut the man’s Internet service. After doing so, they showed up pretending to be repairmen. The butler allowed them in and, from there, they could collect all the evidence they needed.
When Wei Seng “Paul” Phua arrived in Vegas on his private Jet last summer, he was immediately arrested by the FBI, with the evidence they illegally acquired as their reasoning.
The Judge’s Ruling
Unfortunately for the FBI, a federal judge ruled against them last week. In his ruling, Judge Andrew P. Gordon took 22 pages to point out how their subterfuge violated the constitution and therefore all their evidence amounted to nothing in the eyes of the court. Had he been convicted, Phua would be looking at time in prison. Both charges carry penalties of up to seven years apiece.
Although Phua had given his consent, Judge Gordon pointed out that this is not what the Fourth Amendment had in mind. Were this investigation allow to stand, warrantless searches would become commonplace. Any agent who wanted entry to a home would just have to first cut off some non-essential service. Gordon also referenced a 2001 ruling where a thermal-imaging device wasn’t allowed to search a home from the outside without a proper warrant first.
While Phua has ties to organized crime and had recently been arrested in Macau for similar charges, he will be leaving the country a free man, most likely with any money he made from the World Cup.