On April 17, 2019, Ying Lin pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York to serving as an agent for the People’s Republic of China without notifying the Attorney General, by working at the direction and control of military officers assigned to the Permanent Mission of the PRC to the United Nations. Lin, a former manager with an international air carrier headquartered in the PRC (the Air Carrier) improperly facilitated the transport of packages from John F. Kennedy International Airport to the PRC aboard Air Carrier flights as the behest of the PRC military officers and in violation of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations.
The defendant’s actions helped Chinese military officers to evade U.S. law enforcement scrutiny of packages that they sent from New York to Beijing.
Lin, 48, 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 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. Since the PRC military officers did not travel on those flights, Lin’s actions violated TSA regulations, requiring 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 lo loyalty should be to the PRC.
For her illegal acts, Lin obtained benefits from the PRC Mission and PRC Consulate in New York. The benefits included 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 allowed under the terms of their visas to work only on PRC government facilities.
Sentences and Law
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).
In particular, Lin is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 951(a). The statute requires a person who is, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, when she acts in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign government to first notify the Attorney General. The law excludes duly accredited diplomats and consuls and persons engaged in a legal commercial transaction.
The indictment and plea illustrate increased prosecution for lack of transparency, namely persons representing foreign principals and governments who fail to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act or in this case fail to notify the Attorney General.
The current issue of the IELR will discuss the case in more detail.