Judge Dismisses Evidence in Illegal Gambling Case

I wrote many months ago about a case in Las Vegas, where FBI agents killed the wifi to a villa at Caesar’s Palace, then dressed up as computer technicians to gain access to and gather evidence in an investigation of illegal gambling by a wealthy Malaysian man. A judge has now ruled that evidence inadmissible.

Wealthy Malaysian businessman Paul Phua is currently fighting charges related to illegal sports gambling on last year’s World Cup. He allegedly operated the lucrative online gambling operation out of a villa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Phua, along with several other individuals, was arrested last summer.

Authorities posed as computer repairmen to gather evidence against Phua.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon upheld a different judge’s decision to have the evidence against Phua tossed out. The case against him remains in doubt since the evidence can’t be included in the trial, which is still scheduled to begin on June 1.

The behavior of the FBI here is appalling but hardly surprising. They’ll do anything to get around the 4th Amendment, but this time a judge isn’t letting them get away with it. Their actions were blatantly illegal.

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  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    Wait, the court is actually enforcing the Bill of Rights?? Does the system actually work??

    a wealthy Malaysian man.

    Oh, there it is.

    Yep, the system is working as intended…

  • mkoormtbaalt

    Pshh. How can the FBI gather any evidence if they can’t even go under cover!?! Next, you’ll want them to be required to tell suspects about their rights.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @mkoormtbaalt

    There’s lawful going undercover, and then there’s unlawfully communications jamming as a pretense to gain entry. I like to go with the legal theory that the first act of unlawful activity by the FBI poisons all subsequent evidence gained as a consequence of that unlawful activity. Otherwise, it’s giving carte blanche to the government to jam my wifi whenever they feel like it.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    PS:

    Maybe if they had a warrant or some equivalent approval from a judge to do this invasive tactic. IIRC, in this case the FBI didn’t have a warrant, so screw them.

  • Alverant

    #4 I can’t see any competent judge giving the approval for such a tactic. They’d need a warrant and present it to a person on site.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Alverant

    That’s the rub, isn’t it?

    In my wild dreams, I can imagine scenarios out of the tv show 24 where that kind of tactic may be required. Perhaps there’s a legitimate worry of destruction of evidence if they openly serve a knock-and-announce warrant. But of course, we shouldn’t base real law on hypothetical scenarios from 24.

  • freemage

    As a legal layman, I don’t see a problem with a judge issuing a warrant to authorize a reasonable undercover operation–and yes, that would include creating a situation (like jammed wi-fi, or an electrical outage, or whatever) that gave cover to the infiltration team. (In fact, I’d argue that it would be better for such tactics to receive prior judicial review and approval or rejection, than for a warrant to be issued to acquire the information, but no guidance offered on tactics.) It’s the fact that they had no warrant for any of it that makes it completely abusive of the rights of the target, and which should get the whole thing thrown out.