Bank card skimmers face rapid deportation

Two Canadian bank card skimmers can expect deportation any day after being sentenced for their hopeless venture into the multi-billion dollar financial crime industry.

The uncle and nephew have been held in custody for two-and-a-half months which means they have served half the five-month jail terms imposed today by Christchurch District Court Judge Paul Kellar and are eligible for release straight away.

The judge said he confidently expected the pair to be contacted immediately by immigration authorities and be sent home. The skimming equipment they brought into New Zealand and installed on automatic teller machines at New Brighton and Linwood will be destroyed.

Hoang Nguyen, 39, and his nephew Quang Nguyen, 28, pleaded guilty in March to joint charges of accessing  computer systems – both Westpac automatic teller machines – with intent to dishonestly obtain bankcard information.

The pair arrived in New Zealand in February on February 26, on three month visitor visas, with the skimming gear to get ATM-users’ bank card details and PIN numbers, and a list of eight Christchurch ATMs.

In fact, they got nothing. Quick action by Westpac staff and police meant the devices were spotted soon after they were installed and the Nguyens were found at their accommodation with more skimming gear, cameras, a laptop computer, and the list.

Judge Kellar said skimming details and then cloning bank cards was the fastest growing electronic crime, with losses of $8 billion a year in the United States alone. New Zealand losses amounted to millions of dollars a year.

Police prosecutor Bronwen Blackmore said it was an aggravating factor that the pair came to New Zealand with the intention of committing the crime, and it was fortuitous that bank staff were able to intervene before there was any loss.

Counsel for Quang, Colin Eason, said his client was a restaurant manager who had planned a long trip through the Pacific, the Middle East, and then to Vietnam to visit an ageing grandparent. “The cost of part of that journey has been lost – he accepts that.”

Both Mr Eason, and Hoang’s lawyer, Elizabeth Bulger, urged the judge not to impose extra jail time for premeditation, because preparation was part of the nature of the offence. Her client had not yet been contacted Immigration New Zealand, but he had no problem with immediate deportation on his release.

Judge Kellar said it was reasonably serious and sophisticated offending, against a banking industry which relied on people having confidence in its systems. There was a high degree of planning and sophistication.

He reduced the Nguyens’ jail terms because they had no criminal records in Canada and they had pleaded guilty early.

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