Hearing to resume next week for woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago
|Toronto Star 08 Apr 2019 at 12:58|
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Monday bond hearing was adjourned until next week for a Chinese woman accused of lying to illegally enter President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club while carrying a device containing computer malware.
Yujing Zhang’s hearing was expected to resume next Monday. She will be held without bond until then.
The 32-year-old woman is charged with making false statements to federal agents and illegally entering a restricted area.
Speaking at the Monday bail hearing in West Palm Beach, Florida, prosecutor Rolando Garcia said the FBI is still investigating whether Zhang is a spy. Garcia said they were not making allegations of spying at this time but there are “a lot of questions that remain to be answered.”
Secret Service agents arrested Zhang March 30 while she carrying two Chinese passports, four cellphones, an external computer hard drive and a thumb drive that contained malware, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors say she approached a Secret Service checkpoint outside the Palm Beach club during the president’s latest visit and said she was a member who wanted to use the pool, court documents said. She showed the passports as identification.
Agents say she wasn’t on the membership list, but a club manager thought Zhang was the daughter of a member. Agents say that when they asked Zhang if the member was her father, she did not answer definitively but they thought it might be a language barrier and admitted her.
Zhang’s story changed when she got inside, agents say, telling a front desk receptionist she was there to attend the United Nations Chinese American Association event scheduled for that evening. No such event was scheduled and agents were summoned.
Agent Samuel Ivanovich wrote in court documents that Zhang told him she was there for the Chinese American event and had come early to familiarize herself with the club and take photos, again contradicting what she had said at the checkpoint. She showed him an invitation in Chinese he could not read.
He said Zhang was taken off the grounds and told she could not be there. Ivanovich said she became argumentative, so she was taken to the local Secret Service office for questioning.
There, he said, it became clear Zhang speaks and reads English well. He said Zhang said she had travelled from Shanghai to attend the nonexistent Mar-a-Lago event on the invitation of an acquaintance named “Charles,” whom she only knew through a Chinese social media app. Ivanovich said she then denied telling the checkpoint agents she was a member wanting to swim.
There is no indication Zhang was ever near the president, who was at his nearby golf course at that time.
There is also no indication that she personally knew Cindy Yang, a Chinese native, Republican donor and former Florida massage parlour owner who made news recently after it was learned she was promising Chinese business leaders that her consulting firm could get them access to Mar-a-Lago, where they could mingle with the president.
But a man named Charles Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and was photographed at least twice with Yang, who also goes by the name Yang Li. Yang previously owned a spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution.