FBI Agents Posed as Internet Repairmen to Ensnare Alleged Gambling Ring

Lawyers Question Elaborate FBI Ruse in Las Vegas Gambling Bust 2:24

In an elaborate, "Ocean’s Eleven"-like ruse, FBI agents went undercover at a Las Vegas casino to catch members of an alleged sports betting ring operating out of a high-roller suite. New video released of the July sting inside Caesars Palace was recorded from the lapel of one of the agents after he gained access to the villas. But how he collected evidence isn’t sitting well with lawyers of the suspects — one of whom is 50-year-old Malaysian millionaire and gambling guru Paul Phua.

The FBI, working on a tip, cut off Internet access to Phua’s room. Agents later posed as computer repairmen called in to fix the blackout. Once inside, the agents glanced at the suspects’ computers in the room, claiming they saw evidence of illegal betting. "I got the URL for the site they were wagering on," one of the agents says in the video, which was obtained by NBC News. After coming back with a search warrant, the FBI arrested Phua and his son, accusing them and six others of taking millions of dollars in bets on the World Cup.

This case follows two other instances made public in recent weeks of federal agents duping their targets in order to ensnare them. The Drug Enforcement Administration used a fake Facebook page to catch a New York woman’s alleged drug associates, while it was revealed Monday that the FBI wrote a bogus news story to arrest a bomb threat suspect in 2007.

Defense attorney Thomas Goldstein is fighting the charges against Phua, and said police can’t just trick their way into a private residence with solely a tip. "If the government can do this, it could also cut off your cable television, your electricity, your phone service," he told NBC News. "And when you call for help, you always have to worry that person who shows up at your door is actually an undercover agent with a hidden camera." Prosecutors in Las Vegas declined to comment on the case; their response is due in court in a few weeks.



— Pete Williams