BLAINE - A Vancouver, B.C., woman caught at a Blaine border crossing with a bag of fake credit cards must serve one year in prison, a Whatcom County Superior Court judge ruled this week.
Customs officers stopped Tai Ying Yiu, 25, at the Peace Arch crossing Jan. 21 on her way into the United States. They took her inside for a secondary inspection. She set a handbag on a countertop, then made "furtive movements" to hide something under the counter ledge, according to charges filed in Superior Court. A federal agent asked her why she was trying to conceal the bag.
"Cuz (sic) I stole it," Yiu replied, according to the charging papers.
Nineteen credit cards, most of them from Canadian banks, were stashed in the bag. At least 13 were proven to be fraudulent or stolen accounts. More than $5,000 had been charged to the cards.
Later, in jail, Yiu admitted that she and two fellow travelers had been en route to Seattle to meet a man named David. She had the job of hanging onto the counterfeit bank cards because "they thought a female (would be) less likely to be searched," according to court records.
They also planned to swap out authentic credit card readers for identical machines that would record credit card information and personal identification numbers. Yiu admitted to investigators that she had agreed to help with that scheme, too, in exchange for 20 percent of the take, according to the charges.
Her alleged partners in crime - identified by investigators only as "Lee," "Tsang" and the aforementioned "David" - weren't charged with offenses in Whatcom County, said Deputy Prosecutor James Hulbert. It's not clear if they've been charged in another jurisdiction.
The U.S. Secret Service has been investigating "organized crime elements" linked to the credit card thefts for the recent months, according to local authorities.
Yiu had no prior convictions in the United States. She pleaded guilty in July to seven counts of unlawful possession of fictitious identification, a class C felony. Her attorney, David A. Nelson, said at her sentencing Thursday, Nov. 21, that she'd never been to prison before.
"So it's a big deal, and she's scared," Nelson told Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder.
Yiu chose not to speak at the hearing. Her sentence will be served at the state women's prison in Gig Harbor.