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Fourth Amendment Violations by the FBI are More Common than You Think

Brian J Smith Nov. 25, 2014

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is meant to protect citizens from unlawful search and seizure. The amendment requires law enforcement officials, both state and federal, to obtain a warrant or consent before conducting a search. For the third time in recent weeks, concerns and questions have been raised regarding the information gathering tactics of federal law enforcement agents.

FBI agents impersonate repairmen to conduct a search

On July 4, 2014 agents from The Nevada Gaming Control Board and the FBI entered the Las Vegas room of Wei Seng Phua with the intent of gathering evidence on the operations of an illegal gambling ring. The problem with this was the two men were undercover, dressed as Internet service repairmen. The FBI allegedly shut off Internet access to the room to create a ruse in order to gain entry.

Photo courtesy of wolter_tom

Video recordings illustrate plans

Video obtained in Oct. 2014, three months after the alleged search, filmed from the lapel of one of the undercover agents, outlined the plan. The video contains 30 minutes of audio and video recordings detailing various code words and other strategy to be used while inside the Las Vegas room. One of the agents on the video also claims the name he used for the illegal search had been used by him on previous occasions.

Illegal search leads to arrests

Shortly after obtaining the evidence, Phua and seven others, including his son, were arrested. The charges against them included transmission of wagering information, operating an illegal gambling business as well as aiding and abetting. Defendants have yet to enter a plea but have denied any wrongdoing. The investigators did not obtain a warrant or consent from anyone in the room because they felt there was probable cause to conduct the search. Under U.S. law, improperly obtained evidence is not supposed to be used in court.

Not the first time

According to defense lawyers for Phua, the plan was employed against the recommendation of Assistant US Attorney Kimberly Frayn. The FBI has come under fire in recent months for several incidents involving questionable evidence gathering tactics. In New York, the FBI set up a fake Facebook account in order to further incriminate a woman accused of drug charges. The FBI has also been accused of circulating a fake news story in order to get a suspect in a bomb threat to reveal his location.

Know your rights

The Fourth Amendment was initially adopted to prevent general search warrants from being carelessly granted without evidence. The law is for the protection of citizens against law enforcement officials who take advantage of individuals who are unaware of their rights. If you find yourself in a situation like this, request to see the warrant and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of illegal search and seizure, contact Brian J. Smith today. As a top Las Vegas criminal lawyer, Brian Smith can give you the answers and the help you deserve. Call us today at (702) 380-8248 for more information.