In Depth

Chinese intruder carrying passports and malware arrested at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club

Suspect Yujing Zhang in custody charged with lying to federal agents and illegally entering a restricted area

A woman carrying two Chinese passports, four mobile phones and a device containing malware gained admission to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club while the US president was there over the weekend, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors say the manager of the private members club in Florida mistook 32-year-old Yujing Zhang for the daughter of a member when she arrived on Saturday and allowed her to enter. But “resort personnel became suspicious after Zhang appeared to have trouble explaining why she was visiting Mar-a-Lago, according to the affidavit”, reports Reuters.

Once inside the club - which has been dubbed the Winter White House - Zhang told the receptionist she was there for a Chinese-American event, says the Associated Press.

But no such event was scheduled and federal agents say a thumb drive found on Zhang contained “malicious malware”.

After being detained by Secret Service personnel, she then claimed to be a Mar-a-Lago member and said she was there to use the swimming pool. 

The Chinese national was “reportedly taken to the local Secret Service office, at which point questioning made clear she spoke and read English”, reports The Hill.

“Trump, who often visits the Palm Beach club, was present during the incident but Zhang never made contact with him,” the Washington DC-based news site adds.

The Secret Service court filing states that along with the passports, phones and thumb drive, investigators also found in Zhang’s possession a laptop computer and an external hard drive device.  

The court records show that Zhang subsequently claimed she had traveled from Shanghai to attend the non-existent Mar-a-Lago event on the invitation of an acquaintance named “Charles”, whom she said she knew only through a Chinese social media app.

In reality, Zhang “appears to have been trying to access an event arranged by Li Yang, a Chinese native, Republican donor and former Florida massage parlour owner”, says the Miami Herald.

Yang recently made the news “after it was found 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”, adds The Guardian.

Yang has worked with a Chinese event promoter named Charles Lee to advertise galas and political fundraisers attended by the Trump family at the club.

Zhang remains in custody and is charged with making false statements to federal agents and illegally entering a restricted area. According to the court filing, a public defender representing Zhang said she was invoking her right to remain silent.

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