Man with ATM skimming devices gets prison sentence

Defense says defendant only a mule

The federal court has handed down a six-month prison sentence against a man who was indicted for allegedly concealing ATM skimming devices in his luggage.

Xiaolin Yang was given credit for time served.

Upon serving his sentence, Yang, a Chinese national, will be immediately deported from the CNMI and, at the same time, placed on supervised release for a year.

Yang was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and pay a $100 special assessment fee.

Assistant U.S. attorney James Benedetto had recommended a sentence of six months—at the low end of the sentencing guidelines. Benedetto also recommended Yang’s deportation and forfeiture of items seized from Yang.

Attorney Mark B. Hanson, the court-appointed counsel for Yang, recommended a six-month prison term with credit for time served. Yang has been in custody for nearly eight months.

Hanson said that Yang was essentially used as a mule, transporting the equipment to Saipan and handing it to a third party.

Hanson said Yang’s parents passed away when he was still a child and he was pressed into work early in life and completed only fifth grade.

Hanson said Yang is married and they have a son who is 10. The lawyer said the defendant, while in jail, has been unable to contact his wife and son, who are both in China.

Hanson said Yang does not have any history of substance abuse and has no criminal record.

Yang pleaded guilty to transporting the device-making equipment from China to Saipan.

Hanson said that Yang’s involvement in the scheme is relatively minor.

The indictment charged Yang in federal court with one count of conspiracy to traffic or possess device-making equipment. He pleaded guilty last Sept. 9.

The indictment said ATM skimming device includes a device fastened over the top of the factory-installed card reader on an ATM machine, which together with a small hidden camera, is used to illegally capture account information contained on the magnetic stripe on the back of an ATM or debit card as well as a customer’s personal identification number.

The captured account information is later transferred onto a counterfeit or fictitious ATM or debit card, and the captured PIN is used to make unauthorized withdrawals from the legitimate customer’s account.

The indictment also contains notice of forfeiture.

The property, which was seized from Yang, include two card readers, four pinhole cameras and attached hardware, one iPhone 6, one Lenovo laptop computer, one Toshiba external hard drive, four 3.7 volt battery packs, $1,000 cash, and 1,209 Chinese RMB.

According to the indictment, beginning on April 21, 2016, and continuing through April 28, 2016, Yang conspired with persons to possess two ATM skimming devices and four pinhole cameras.

Yang brought the equipment from China to Saipan on April 28, 2016.

FBI special agents arrested Yang last April 29 shortly after U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy issued an arrest warrant upon the U.S. government’s filing of a complaint charging him with illegal possession of device-making equipment.

According to FBI special agent Haejun Park in his affidavit, Yang arrived on Saipan aboard Asiana Airlines from Hong Kong via Incheon last April 28.

Park said during immigration processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Yang acted suspiciously so he was required to undergo additional screening.

Park said during this additional screening, ATM skimming devices were found inside Yang’s luggage.

The FBI investigated the skimming devices that were discovered earlier in April on two ATM machines at First Hawaiian Bank in Oleai.

Last April 9, the FBI released 10 photos of individuals wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the electronic thefts from FHB accounts held by Saipan residents.

FHB stated that card skimming through their ATMs was believed to be the cause of the unauthorized transactions made in various FHB accounts.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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