A case in Las Vegas is being undermined by claims that FBI agents intentionally cut off internet service to three luxury suites at Caesar’s Palace in order to pose as internet repairmen so they could gain entry into the suites.
The initial case is against Chinese gamblers who were supposedly running an illegal sportsbooking operation out of their suites.
What raised suspicions at first was when the people in the suites asked for an unusually large amount of computer and technical equipment to be delivered to them. An electrical engineer employed by the hotel told management about his suspicions, and the Nevada Gaming Commission and FBI were brought into the picture.
From here things get messy on the FBI’s part.
While the NGC and FBI were suspicious of illegal acts, suspicions are not enough for a search warrant to be issued. So agents began formulating plans in order to gain entry undetected and gather enough evidence for a search warrant.
The first plan, according to NPR, was to deliver a set of laptops to the suites and ask for entry in order to make sure the laptops were able to properly connect to the internet. This plan failed when the butler at Caesar’s refused to allow entry to the agents.
With the thoughts of the internet still fresh on their minds, agents decided to simply cut off the internet to the suites, pose as repairmen, and gain entry into the suites to carry out their warrant-less investigation.
When the agents gained entry under this false pretense, they began to take pictures of the room and videos commenting on what the agents saw. The agents on the video seemed happy with what they found, saying on film, “Yeah, we see what we need to see… very cool,” before leaving the rooms.
It is important to note the FBI would have never been implicated on these videos if it were not for a slip-up one agent made while recording when the agent mentioned the FBI and cutting off the internet on purpose.
Whatever evidence found on the tapes which made the agents happy, however, cannot be entered into a legal case as they were gained through deceptive or ambiguous means. This also means any evidence found after a warrant was issued may be moot in the case.
George Washington University law professor Stephen Saltzburg said this case shows the FBI can cut off a person’s internet or create some other situation where outside help is required, and then gain entry into your home through a ruse, all in order to gain a search warrant. Saltzburg, who also worked for the Justice Department also said unless the FBI is going to “push the law of consent beyond where it’s ever been before,” the evidence will have to be thrown out.
Former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch said, according to CNBC, “Police are allowed to use a certain kind of subterfuge, but what they can’t do is create a certain kind of circumstance.”
The Justice Department and FBI have not commented on the matter.