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The State Courts / photo: Terry Xu

Two Chinese nationals arrested for serial ATM fraud

Two Chinese nationals, who are brothers, were imprisoned for a series of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fraud cases. The two, Zhao Yuxin and  Zhao Yukun are brothers.

Zhao Yuxin, 30, booked a flight and flew to Singapore to look for his elder brother when he was unable to contacted him only to get arrested as soon as he arrived at Changi airport on 14 May.

He did not aware that Zhao Yukun, 37, had been in remand in the country since 25 April for crimes they both committed early this year.

On Thursday (6 September), Zhao Yukun sentenced to an imprisonment of three years after pleading guilty to six counts of theft, one count of dishonestly retaining stolen property, and one count of possessing equipment to make cloned ATM cards. Seventeen counts of theft were also taken into consideration for sentencing.

Meanwhile, the younger Zhao sentenced to six months of imprisonment for two counts of theft, while a similar charge was also taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that on 20 January the siblings flew to the country from China with a number of cloned ATM cards and attempted to make illegal withdrawals.

The next day, Zhao Yukun successfully withdrew S$1,000 from an OCBC ATM at the V Hotel in Lavender. However, another two attempts by the duo to withdraw cash from a United Overseas Bank (UOB) ATM at the same place failed. Two days later, they both flew back to China.

On 27 February, UOB lodged a police report after a white plastic card was found in its ATM at V Hotel. The police then reviewed the footage from the ATM's closed circuit television camera, as well as the machine's transaction records.

On 20 April, elder Zhao returned to Singapore, carrying more than 40 cloned ATM cards. During the next three days of his stay, he went on a crime spree, targeting various ATMs belonging to DBS, OCBC and UOB, mostly located around Lavender.

The man managed to withdraw cash ranging from S$100 to S$1,500 for each successful attempt.

However, on 24 April he was arrested at about 12.20 am, while he was leaving a UOB ATM located at King George's Avanue, while carrying nine white plastic cards with magnetic strips, three Union Pay ATM cards, and some accessories.

When the police searched in his hotel room, they found 22 white plastic cards with magnetic strips, 12 ATM bank cards, a laptop, an encoder device for reading and/or writing information on cards with magnetic strips, and S$12,587 in cash.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Tan called for a deterrent sentence for the duo, saying that their fraud undermined Singapore's financial infrastructure and the public’s confidence in the use of ATMs and ATM cards.

"The accused entered Singapore for the sole purpose of committing these offences," he added.

DPP Tan, ho asked for a jail term of two years and 10 months for Zhao Yukun, also said that such offences are also inherently difficult to detect, particularly in this case as the culprits were foreigners.

He said that, in the elder Zhao's case, while he had no previous criminal record, he was "essentially a repeat offender" as he was emboldened by his first attempt in January and made a second trip to Singapore, noting that Zhao Yukun could have taken more money with the number of ATM cards in his possession.

"This is significant because there are often limits on how much one can withdraw from a bank account via an ATM in a day," said DPP Tan.

Mr Siaw Kin Yeow, Zhao Yukun's lawyer, however, called for a lighter sentence of two years and four months, saying that in mitigation that the elder Zhao may face prosecution by the Chinese authorities when he returns to China as he possessed personal information belonging to Chinese nationals.

No restitution was made for both cases.