Local authorities in Florida have detained a Chinese woman who illegally entered U.S. Pres. Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club over the weekend.
Thirty-two-year-old Yujing Zhang gained access to Trump's Palm Beach club on Saturday by telling U.S. Secret Service agents that she wanted to swim in the pool. The president was staying at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend but was not present when Zhang allegedly tried to visit.
Agents detained Zhang and searched her belongings, which included a laptop, an external hard drive, four cell phones, and a thumb drive. When they checked what was inside the thumb drive, they found that it had malicious malware saved into it.
Gaining Access To Mar-a-Lago Club
Reports said Zhang was able to enter the Mar-a-Lago club after telling the receptionist that she was attending an event for the United Nations Chinese American Association. However, the receptionist knew that no such event was scheduled on that date.
When Secret Service agents arrived, Zhang told them that she was there to attend a UN Nations Friendship Event between China and the United States. She even produced an alleged invitation to this event, which the agents were not able to read since it was in Chinese.
Zhang reportedly was carrying two passports from Taiwan, but this was later clarified by federal officials.
"Information presented to the court indicates that the defendant is from the People's Republic of China, not Republic of China (Taiwan), and they were PRC passports," U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Sarah Schall wrote in an email to CNN.
After interrogating Zhang, federal agents found that a certain man named "Charles" had told her to fly to Palm Beach, Florida, from Shanghai, China, to attend the supposed UN event. She was then instructed to interview a member of Trump's family regarding the foreign economic relations between China and the United States.
Agents tried to gain more information about her friend Charles, but Zhang told them that she had only spoken to him through the Chinese messaging service WeChat.
Zhang initially seemed to have limited understanding of English when she tried to enter the president's Palm Beach club, according to the complaint. However, she displayed a better grasp of the language when she was later interviewed by federal agents.
Florida prosecutors charged Zhang with one count of making false statements to federal officers and one count of entering a restricted property.
The Chinese woman appeared before a federal court in Florida on Monday. She was informed about the charges filed against her as well as the penalties she could face because of her actions. Zhang's detention hearing is scheduled on April 8.
In its statement, the U.S. Secret Service stressed that management at the Mar-a-Lago club has the responsibility of deciding who can enter the property. However, this permission does not allow individuals to come near the president or any other charges under the protection of the agency.
Agents and other officials also carry out physical screenings of individuals to make sure that no banned items are allowed into the club.
The Secret Service said it enforces the same degree of security at Mar-a-Lago as those at any other sites visited by the president.