3 key defendants in World Cup case ordered released

With some of the world’s top poker players in the courtroom, a federal magistrate Thursday ordered the release on bail of three key defendants arrested in an alleged World Cup betting scheme.

Malaysian junketeer Seng Chen “Richard” Yong, 56, was ordered freed on $1.5 million bail and his son, Wai Kin Yong, 22, was to be released on $500,000 bail. The third defendant, Hong Kong real estate executive Hui Tang, 44, was ordered released on a $1.5 million bond.

Professional poker star Phil Ivey, who was in court, agreed to post $500,000 of Richard Yong’s bail and the entire bond for the younger Yong.

Afterward, Ivey, a 10-time World Series of Poker champion who lives in Las Vegas, said he stepped forward because the Yongs are personal friends.

“I have the utmost respect and trust for them,” Ivey said.

Dan Cates, another big-name poker player, agreed to post the remaining $1 million for Richard Yong, who is known for his lucrative casino junket business in Asia and his presence on the poker circuit.

Ivey and another professional poker icon, Andrew Robl, previously posted $2.5 million in bail for two other key defendants — Malaysian businessman Wei Seng “Paul” Phu, 50, and his son Darren Wai Kit Phua, 22.

FBI agents believe Paul Phua, a frequent poker player in Las Vegas and Macau, was the ringleader of the multimillion-dollar betting operation, which is alleged to have taken illegal bets on the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil.

In a criminal complaint filed in Las Vegas, agents alleged Phua is “known by law enforcement to be a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad,” one of the largest criminal syndicates in the world. His lawyer, David Chesnoff, denies the organized crime ties.

Two more poker stalwarts, Gabe Patgorski and Tom Dwan, agreed to allow the Yongs and Tang, respectively, to stay at their homes in their custody. Dwan said he shares Ivey’s respect for the defendants.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Hoffman put several restrictions on the three defendants, including electronic monitoring, no gambling and no use of devices that access the Internet.

A Las Vegas federal grand jury this week indicted a total of eight defendants in the international betting scheme, which authorities alleged stretched to Macau. The indictment alleges the defendants ran the betting operation from June 6 through their July 13 arrest in Las Vegas.

The defendants were taken into custody days after an FBI raid at three exclusive Caesars Palace villas. The Strip resort was not a target of the investigation.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.