World / Crime & Legal

Chinese woman nabbed with high-tech gear at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort appears in court

Reuters

A Chinese woman charged with bluffing her way into President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort last month, renewing concerns about security at the club, appeared in court on Monday at a hearing to determine whether she will remain in custody, according to U.S. media.

The woman, Yujing Zhang, was arrested after giving conflicting reasons for being at the club during one of Trump’s routine weekend visits. According to prosecutors, she was carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumb drive containing what investigators described as “malicious malware.”

Prosecutors argued in court that concerns about Zhang’s trustworthiness and the fact that a search of her hotel room turned up a device to detect hidden cameras, five cellphone SIM cards and $8,000 in cash were reasons to keep her in custody, the Washington Post reported.

“She lies to everyone she encounters,” the newspaper quoted Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia as saying during the hearing.

The FBI is examining whether Zhang has any links to Chinese intelligence or political influence operations, two U.S. government sources told Reuters last week.

Zhang told one of the U.S. Secret Service agents who protect the property she was there to use the pool and later told a second agent that she had been invited to a U.N. Chinese American Association event, though club officials determined no such event was scheduled. She was arrested after agents determined she had no legitimate reason to be at the club, a business owned by Trump.

Zhang has been charged with making false statements to a federal officer and entering or remaining in a restricted area, charges that carry up to a five-year sentence in federal prison if she is convicted. She is 32 or 33 years old, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Congressional Democrats raised questions on Wednesday about security at the club, where Trump is in close and frequent contact with club members and guests. The president brushed off the concerns, calling the incident a “fluke” and praising the Secret Service.