By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An employee of a Chinese airline, who came onto the radar of U.S. authorities as they probed the activities of a Macau billionaire accused of bribing a U.N. General Assembly president, is now facing legal troubles of her own.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this month searched the home of Air China Ltd employee Ying Lin, seizing 100 items, including computers and jewelry, her lawyer said last week at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
The search comes eight months after Lin, a U.S. citizen, was charged with structuring deposits at two banks in amounts less than $10,000 to evade currency transaction reporting requirements over a five-year period beginning in August 2010.
At the April 12 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Solomon, who belongs to a national security and cyber crime unit, said prosecutors may bring more charges based on the search against Lin, who has pleaded not guilty.
The exact nature of the probe into Lin could not be determined. No claims have been made involving Air China, where Lin has worked for 14 years and is its Newark station manager.
Lillibeth Bishop, a spokeswoman for the state-run carrier, in a statement said it was "Air China's policy not to comment on matters that involve the U.S. federal authorities."
The investigation is not the first time that Lin has been in the FBI's crosshairs.
According to a person familiar with the matter and court filings, Lin was also as early as 2014 drawn into a separate investigation into Ng Lap Seng, a real estate developer from Macau who heads Sun Kian Ip Group.
Ng, who last year had a $1.8 billion net worth, and his assistant, Jeff Yin, were arrested in September for allegedly making false statements to customs officials about why they brought $4.5 million into the United States from China.
They were charged in October along with others for engaging in a scheme to pay $1.3 million in bribes to John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was U.N. General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014.
Ng, Yin and Ashe have pleaded not guilty.
Lin, who lives in New York City, is not identified by name in court papers in the case against Ng in Manhattan federal court.
Her lawyer, Deborah Colson, as well as representatives for U.S. Attorney's offices in Manhattan, which is prosecuting Ng, and in Brooklyn, which brought Lin's case, declined comment on any connection between the two cases.
But a source confirmed she is the person referred to as "Individual-1" in court papers in the case against Ng.
According to those papers, Yin escorted Ng from an April 2014 flight into New York, in which Ng brought $300,000 in cash with him authorities say he falsely claimed was for gambling in Las Vegas or buying art and antiques in New York.
Ng claimed he did not know the individual personally, the complaint said. But the complaint said Lin had "business dealings" with Ng and Yin prior to their trip involving more than just her relationship with the airline.
When Ng and Yin were arrested on Sept. 19, Lin was holding onto a bag belonging to Yin containing a Chinese passport, credit cards, $15,000 in cash and a key to a safe deposit box containing $430,000, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the bag's contents demonstrated that Yin intended to flee. He was initially denied bail, but later was released from jail.
During a bail hearing on Sept. 29, Sabrina Shroff, Yin's lawyer, said the woman who held onto the bag was facing charges in Brooklyn. Shroff declined to comment for this article.
Lin has not been accused of wrongdoing in the Ng case. It remains unclear if that case relates to the bank structuring allegations against Lin.
Ng's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Chris Reese)