Chinese woman paid $20K for Mar-a-Lago event

Mar-a-Lago
CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD/TNS
President Trump and his family were visiting Mar-a-Lago (above) the weekend Yujing Zhang of China was arrested.

BY JANE MUSGRAVE
PALM BEACH POST/TNS

WEST PALM BEACH – A 32-year-old Chinese woman who was arrested last month at Mar-a-Lago paid $20,000 to a Chinese businessman believing it would allow her to attend an event featuring President Donald Trump’s sister, her attorney told a U.S. magistrate on Monday.

While the receipt Yujing Zhang received for the payment could ultimately help her win her freedom, she now faces additional legal woes. The U.S. government revoked her visa.

Even if Zhang were given the chance to post a bond, she would immediately be turned over to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, federal prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate William Matthewman.

The magistrate delayed a decision on whether Zhang will be granted bail until next Monday.

More charges possible

Matthewman said he would consider evidence Assistant U.S. Public Defender Robert Adler said he uncovered about money Zhang paid to a company owned by Chinese businessman Charles Li. But, he said, he didn’t know how much weight he would give to it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia portrayed Zhang as a pathological liar who would be indicted, possibly on additional charges, this week.

While he acknowledged that there is no evidence Zhang was involved in espionage, or was working as a spy for the Chinese government, he said the investigation is ongoing.

March 30 arrest

President Trump and his family were visiting Mar-a-Lago the weekend Zhang was arrested.

“She lies to everyone she encounters,” Garcia told Matthewman. He said the government would object to allowing her to post bail to leave the Palm Beach County jail, where she has been incarcerated since her arrest on March 30.

Gala canceled

Adler, meanwhile, painted Zhang as an innocent woman who believed the $20,000 would allow her to attend “Safari Night,” sponsored by the Palm Beach Gardens-based children’s charity Young Adventurers.

Trump’s sister, Elizabeth Trump-Grau, was to be the honored guest.

Organizers canceled the gala after realizing it had been hijacked by Cindy Yang, the former owner of a Jupiter day spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is accused of soliciting prostitution, said Terry Bomar, head of the charity.

Agents suspicious

Yang, who lives in Wellington, promoted the event on her website to Chinese business people. Li also “piggybacked” on the Young Adventurers event as part of his business, Adler said.

“For a fee, people were told they could come to the U.S. to attend events at Mar-a-Lago,” he said.

But, Garcia countered, Zhang didn’t explain that to Secret Service agents who became suspicious after she first said she wanted to use the pool at Mar-a-Lago and then said she was there to attend what turned out to be a nonexistent event.

Faces five years

They charged her with lying to a federal agent and entering a restricted building. She faces a maximum five-year prison term.

Instead of explaining it to agents, she lied, Garcia said. Further, he said, she lied to Matthewman during her first appearance last week when she said the only money she had in the United States was roughly $5,000 in a Wells Fargo bank account.

When agents searched her room at the Colony Hotel, they discovered she had $7,620 in U.S. currency and Chinese money worth about $663 in the United States. Agents also found another cellphone, nine USB drives, five SIM cards and a radio frequency device that can be used to spot hidden cameras.

Malware seized

Those are in addition to the four cell phones, a laptop computer, and a thumb drive containing malware that agents seized when they arrested her.

An examination of the malware on the thumb drive showed it was unusual and potentially damaging, Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich testified.

When another agent attempted to decode it, the malware began installing a file on the agent’s computer. The agent immediately shutdown his computer to avoid further “corruption” of it, Ivanovich said.

Adler pointed out that Zhang tried to show agents an invitation she  received to the event. The invitation was on her cellphone and was written in Chinese. Although an interpreter was available, Ivanovich testified that the invitation wasn’t translated.

Shanghai to U.S.

Zhang, who said she worked as a consultant to a Shanghai investment business and is trying to start her own investment firm, arrived in the United States on March 28.

She flew into the airport in Newark, N.J., airport on a direct flight from Shanghai. It was her fifth visit to the United States following one trip here in July 2016, twice in 2017 and once in September 2018.

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