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Three take plea deals in federal World Cup betting ring case

Three defendants pleaded guilty to misdemeanors Tuesday in an alleged multimillion-dollar World Cup betting scheme uncovered by the FBI.

And more pleas are coming Wednesday.

Yan Zhang, 41, Yung Keung Fan, 46, and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, 36, all of Hong Kong, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon to a misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact to transmission of wagering information.

At the urging of defense lawyers and federal prosecutors, Gordon immediately sentenced each defendant to five years of unsupervised probation and fined each $100,000.

Each defendant also will forfeit up to $125,000 in cash and other assets seized in a July 9 FBI-led raid on the gambling operation at Caesars Palace.

Gordon ordered all three defendants, who are not U.S. citizens, to leave the county as soon as “practical” and stay away during their five-year terms of probation.

He told the defendants they had committed a “serious offense” in Nevada, where gambling is the “lifeblood of the community.”

Two of the bigger players in the alleged scheme, Malaysian junketeer Richard Yong, 57, and Hong Kong real estate man Hui Tang, 44, are to plead guilty on Wednesday.

According to a copy of his deal with prosecutors, Tang agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of transmission of wagering information and pay a $250,000 fine. He also agreed to forfeit up to $250,000 in cash, as well as property seized in the raid.

Tang is expected to receive a sentence of five years of unsupervised probation with the same condition to stay out of the United States during that period.

Tang admitted in his plea agreement that he played a key role in the international operation during June and July. He acknowledged that he participated in Skype chats between Las Vegas and the Philippines as part of his illegal wagering activities.

FBI and state gaming agents seized more than 100 electronic devices, including cell phones and computers, during the Caesars Palace raid and determined the group made $13 million accepting wagers on the World Cup soccer tournament, federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Tuesday.

“Through extensive analysis, it was determined that although the bets were being processed through equipment located in Las Vegas, the actual funds being transferred to cover the bets, or to pay winning bets, were being controlled or were in accounts overseas, specifically in Southeast Asia,” prosecutors wrote.

Yong, who is well-known at poker tables in Las Vegas and Macao, is set to plead guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor and has agreed to forfeit $400,000 in cash and property, court documents show. He also is expecting an unsupervised probation sentence so he can return to his family in Malaysia.

Prosecutors are dropping the criminal case against Yong’s son, Wai Kin Yong, and the remaining two defendants, wealthy Malaysian businessman Paul Phua and his son, Darren, plan to fight the illegal gambling charges.

The elder Phua, 50, a well-known poker player, has been described by authorities as one of the leaders of the operation.

FBI agents took Phua and the seven other defendants into custody on the Strip several days after the July 9 raid, which occurred at three exclusive Caesars Palace villas. The Strip resort tipped off authorities to the operation.

The FBI alleged that the elder Phua was “known by law enforcement to be a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad,” one of the largest criminal syndicates in the world.

But defense lawyers David Chesnoff and Thomas Goldstein argued in court papers the FBI has little evidence to support that claim.

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

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