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Poker pros' cash hasn't freed betting suspects

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Lawyers in Las Vegas want immigration authorities to release a wealthy Malaysian businessman who was charged in a World Cup betting scheme and remains in custody even after his poker star friends posted his bail.

Wei Seng ''Paul'' Phua, 50, and his son, Darren Phua, 22, were in the Henderson Detention Center on Monday on a hold from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to jail records. A few days earlier, poker professional Andrew Robl and 10-time World Series of Poker Champion Phil Ivey posted a combined $2.5 million to secure the Phuas' release.

''Our clients have complied with every condition set by a federal judge for their release,'' David Chesnoff, an attorney for the Phuas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. ''We have repeatedly attempted to contact ICE authorities, who have not responded. We are going to take further legal steps.''

An ICE spokeswoman couldn't immediately provide details about the case on Monday, but said more information was expected to be released soon.

The Phuas are among eight people who were arrested July 13 and charged with taking World Cup bets in an illegal sports book set up in Caesars Palace villas. FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents who raided the suites reported finding a laptop computer logging illegal wagers and other records.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said the Las Vegas operation began shortly after Phua left the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, where he had been arrested June 18 and posted bail on similar allegations of illegal wagering on World Cup soccer games.

Bogden identified Phua as a high-ranking member of 14K Triad, an organized crime group.

During their arraignment July 14, a federal judge granted a request that Phua and his son stay with a Las Vegas doctor and poker enthusiast while awaiting an Aug. 4 preliminary hearing.

The Phuas were told that once they posted bail, which was set for $2 million for the father and $500,000 for the son, they would also have to wear GPS monitoring devices, surrender their passports and put up a $48 million private Gulfstream jet as collateral, among other conditions.

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