A Chinese woman carrying four cellphones and a thumb drive containing malware was arrested and charged with unlawfully entering President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and lying to federal agents, according to a complaint filed Monday.
Yujing Zhang was permitted onto the Palm Beach resort grounds Saturday, March 30, passing through multiple checkpoints, restricted access warning signs, and federal law enforcement officials after telling a US Secret Service agent that she was going to the swimming pool.
During the incident, a protective zone around the resort grounds had been established for Trump’s weekend visit. The president was at the estate at the time of the incident.
According to the complaint, Zhang, who is in her thirties, arrived at the first checkpoint in a parking lot across the street from Mar-a-Lago around 12:15 p.m. and presented the agent with two People’s Republic of China passports with her name and photograph, according to the charging documents and the Secret Service.
The agent then provided Zhang’s information to the resort security to verify whether she was listed on the club’s access list, according to the complaint. When Mar-a-Lago security was unable to locate Zhang’s name on the list, they called the beach club manager who informed them that Zhang was the last name of a member at the club.
Zhang was asked whether the member, referred to in the documents as “HZ,” was her father, “but she did not give a definitive answer,” according to the documents.
“Due to a potential language barrier issue, Mar-a-Lago believed her to be the relative of member Zhang and allowed her access onto the property,” a Secret Service agent said in an affidavit.
Zhang was then allowed to pass by additional Secret Service agents and another checkpoint, according to the documents. She eventually was transported by a resort valet driver to the main lobby area where she informed a receptionist that she was there for “a United Nations Chinese American Association event.”
No such event was listed on the schedule, so the receptionist checked whether Zhang was listed on any of the resort’s access lists and confirmed that she was not authorized to be on the property.
Secret Service agents then detained Zhang for further questioning. During their investigation, officials located a total of four cellphones, one laptop computer, one external hard drive, and one thumb drive with malicious software in Zhang’s possession, according to the complaint.
Zhang told federal agents that her Chinese friend “Charles” told her to travel from Shanghai to Mar-a-Lago to attempt to speak with a member of the Trump family about Chinese and American foreign economic relations. Agents were unable to identify “Charles,” who Zhang said she was only in contact with on the Chinese-based messaging app WeChat.
“Had Zhang not falsely portrayed herself as a club member seeking to visit the pool, and instead advised she was there to attend the non-existent ‘United Nations Friendship Event’ between China and the United States, her access would have declined by U.S. Secret Service at the preliminary inspection point,” the affidavit read. No swimming apparel was found in Zhang’s possession, it said.
In a statement Tuesday evening, the Secret Service said Mar-a-Lago — not the Secret Service — determines who is invited or welcome at the resort.
“This access does not afford an individual proximity to the President or other Secret Service protectees,” the statement said.
The law enforcement agency said that agents took “immediate action” to arrest Zhang after reception staff determined she should not have been authorized access to the resort grounds.
The unlawful entry by Zhang is the latest in a string of security issues that have arisen at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort since he took office.
Despite the added security at the Palm Beach club, law enforcement officials have responded to several reports of people trespassing and arriving at the resort wanting to meet with the president.