Brooklyn, New York - Wednesday, 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), abused her privileges to transport 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.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the guilty plea.
“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 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.”
“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 the fall of 2015 as a counter agent at JFK Airport and from the fall of 2015 through April 2016 as the station manager at Newark Liberty International Airport. During her employment with the Air Carrier, Lin accepted packages from the PRC military officers, and placed those packages aboard Air Carrier flights to the PRC as unaccompanied luggage or checked in the packages under the names of other passengers flying on those flights. As the PRC military officers did not travel on those flights, Lin’s actions were contrary to a security program that required that checked baggage be accepted only from ticketed passengers, thereby violating TSA regulations. In addition, Lin encouraged other Air Carrier employees to assist the PRC military officers, instructing those employees that because the Air Carrier was a PRC company, their primary loyalty should be to the PRC.
In exchange for her work at the direction and under the control of PRC military officers and other PRC government officials, Lin received benefits from the PRC Mission and PRC Consulate in New York. These benefits included tax-exempt purchases of liquor, cigarettes and electronic devices worth tens of thousands of dollars. These benefits also included free contracting work at the defendant’s two residences in Queens, New York, 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).
Mr. Demers and Mr. Donoghue expressed their appreciation to the Transportation Security Administration for their assistance on the case. 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 M. 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 EDNY Assistant United States Attorney Brian Morris of the Office’s Civil Division.