I'm a big supporter of our police and other law enforcement officers - they keep us safe by keeping bad guys off of the street. But, it's also important that our officers obey the law, like having proper warrants when they're investigating crimes. Otherwise, they could end up letting actual criminals go free. That could be the case for several Chinese illegal bookmakers who are claiming the FBI illegally cut off their Internet access at Caesars Palace as an excuse to search their rooms.
The situation began when the FBI and Nevada Gaming Commission became suspicious about some guests. Authorities suspected the guests may be setting an illegal gambling ring because they requested "an unusually large amount of electronics equipment and technical support." The men were staying in three villas at Caesars Palace.
The FBI had every right to be suspicious - one of the men faces illegal sports betting charges in Macau, and the government also says he's a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad Chinese criminal organization.
An electrical engineer employee advised security personnel at the Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino that the equipment in one of the villas 'appeared to be set up for an illegal gambling operation.'
But, the law enforcement agency didn't have any concrete evidence that it needed to get a warrant to search the area. And, what it did next could eventually be the men's ticket to freedom.
To get the evidence it needed for a warrant, the FBI disconnected the Internet access to the villas the suspected criminals were staying in. Agents then impersonated repairmen to get into the room and snap photos.
Investigators eventually gained access after they turned off the Internet connection to two suites, impersonated repair technicians and recorded video inside. Authorities later used the videos to obtain a warrant to arrest the men.
Charges were brought against eight men in total, including Wei Seng Phua. He's the one with ties to organized crime and previous illegal gambling charges in Macau. They're charged with transmission of wagering information, operating an illegal gambling business, and aiding and abetting. They all deny any criminal activities, but if the FBI's information about Phua is correct, they were likely up to no good.
But, even if they are guilty, all the suspects could go free. That's because they're contending that the FBI didn't have a warrant and the accused didn't give their consent before the search. Lawyers for the accused filed a motion to have the evidence gathered from that search dismissed, which would really hurt the government's case.
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