Former Manager for International Airline Pleads Guilty to Acting As an Agent of the Chinese Government
Defendant Placed Packages on Flights from JFK Airport to Beijing at the Direction of Military Officers Assigned to the Chinese Mission to the United Nations
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Ying Lin pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), without notification to the Attorney General, by working at the direction and control of military officers assigned to the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations. Lin, a former manager with an international air carrier headquartered in the PRC (the Air Carrier), wrongly facilitated the transport of packages from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) to the PRC aboard Air Carrier flights at the behest of the PRC military officers and in violation of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations. The proceeding was held before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced the guilty plea.
“The defendant’s actions as an agent of the Chinese government helped Chinese military officers to evade U.S. law enforcement scrutiny of packages that they sent from New York to Beijing,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This case demonstrates how seriously we address counterintelligence threats posed by individuals in the United States who work for foreign governments, such as China.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the TSA for their assistance on the case.
“This case is a stark example of the Chinese government using the employees of Chinese companies doing business here to engage in illegal activity,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Covertly doing the Chinese military’s bidding on U.S. soil is a crime, and Lin and the Chinese military took advantage of a commercial enterprise to evade legitimate U.S. government oversight.”
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners do all we can every day to protect this country from the threats we can see, and we work even harder to find the threats we can’t see,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Ms. Lin was secreting packages through some of the country's busiest airports, using her work with the Chinese government to thwart our security measures. We believe this case isn’t unique and hope it serves as an example that the Chinese and other foreign governments can't break our laws with impunity.”
“Lin’s criminal actions exploited the international boundary of the United States as she used her position to smuggle packages onto planes headed to China,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our international airports so they are not used as a front for illicit activities.”
Lin worked for the Air Carrier from 2002 through Fall 2015 as a counter agent at JFK Airport and from Fall 2015 through April 2016 as the station manager at Newark Liberty International Airport. During her employment with the Air Carrier, Lin accepted packages from PRC military officers, and placed those packages aboard Air Carrier flights to the PRC as unaccompanied luggage or checked the packages under the names of other passengers on those flights. Because the PRC military officers did not travel on those flights, Lin’s actions violated TSA regulations that required that checked baggage be accepted only from ticketed passengers. In addition, Lin encouraged other Air Carrier employees to assist the PRC military officers, instructing them that because the Air Carrier was a PRC company, their primary loyalty should be to the PRC.
In exchange for her illegal acts, Lin received benefits from the PRC Mission and PRC Consulate in New York, including tax-exempt purchases of liquor, cigarettes and electronic devices worth tens of thousands of dollars, and free contracting work at her two residences in Queens, by PRC construction workers who were permitted under the terms of their visas to work only on PRC government facilities.
When sentenced, Lin faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment. As part of the guilty plea, Lin agreed to forfeit approximately $25,000 as well as an additional $145,000 in connection with her resolution of the government’s forfeiture verdict in United States v. Zhong, No. 16-CR-614 (AMD).
The government’s case is being handled by the National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, Alexander A. Solomon, Ian C. Richardson and Sarah Evans are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Matthew R. Walczewski of the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. The forfeiture aspect of the case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Morris of the Office’s Civil Division.
Queens, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-601 (AMD)