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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal judge said Thursday she'll rule in the next few days whether it was illegal for undercover investigators to shut off Internet service and pose as repairmen to enter several Las Vegas Strip suites in a gambling ring investigation last summer.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen said she's drafting her order, and she acknowledged the likelihood that her decision in the case involving wealthy Malaysian businessman Wei Seng "Paul" Phua and his son, Darren Wai Kit Phua, will be appealed to a district court judge.
"I imagine the non-prevailing party will take objection," Leen told prosecutors and defense attorneys during a brief courtroom hearing.
She wasn't specific about timing. But she scheduled another status conference Feb. 3.
Trial has been postponed indefinitely pending the decision whether evidence collected as a result of the search was tainted and should be thrown out.
Leen heard three days of detailed testimony in December about the ruse used by FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents to get inside Caesars Palace hotel suites without a warrant.
Defense attorneys Thomas Goldstein and David Chesnoff maintain that entering the villas was an unconstitutional warrantless search of private property.
Prosecutors say the investigators thought they had permission from hotel employees.
They allege the Phuas headed an Internet gambling operation that handled some $13 million in illegal bets on FIFA World Cup soccer games in June and July. The Phuas have pleaded not guilty to two federal charges that, combined, carry the possibility of up to 14 years in prison.
The father and son were arrested July 13 with six other people. They were released two weeks later with GPS monitors on a combined $2.5 million bail posted by friends, including poker professional Andrew Robl and 10-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Ivey.
The government also impounded Wei Seng Phua's $48 million Gulfstream jet as collateral.
Five Chinese citizens pleaded guilty in December to reduced charges in the case. They paid a combined $950,000 in fines, forfeited hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and agreed to leave the U.S. and not return for at least five years. Charges were dropped against one other Chinese man who also left the U.S.
The elder Phua also faces separate charges in Macau, alleging he ran an illegal sports gambling business in the Chinese gambling enclave in the weeks before he traveled to Las Vegas.