A Chinese woman was convicted Wednesday of lying to Secret Service agents and entering a restricted area when she briefly got past security at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in March.
Yujing Zhang, 33, was arrested after bypassing layers of security and getting as far as the club’s reception area, an incident that intensified concerns about possible security gaps at the Florida resort where the president often spends time.
After a trial in Florida that lasted two days, a jury convicted Zhang of lying to a federal agent and entering restricted space. The most serious charge against her carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for November.
The trial was briefly delayed this week when she complained that authorities had not given her underwear.
When Zhang was arrested, investigators found she was carrying a thumb drive, and they feared it had malicious software on it. They also found four phones, a laptop and a separate hard drive, according to officials. When they searched her hotel room, they found nine thumb drives, five SIM cards for cellphones, about $8,000 in cash and a device used to detect hidden cameras.
All of that paraphernalia raised concerns among investigators that she might have ties to Chinese intelligence, but her case was ultimately handled by local prosecutors as a trespassing matter, not a national-security case.
Zhang has remained in custody since her arrest, and her insistence on representing herself in court has frustrated the judge overseeing her case. At the trial, Zhang said little to defend herself, but told the jury that she did not lie and did not mean to violate any rules at the resort.
Tracing Zhang’s movements before her arrest, authorities determined she entered the country legally on March 28, flying into Newark, New Jersey, on a flight from Shanghai.
Two days later, Zhang approached a Mar-a-Lago checkpoint and told security officials she was there to go to the swimming pool, authorities said. Initially, officials thought she was related to a member of the resort. It was only when she got to the reception area that a resort staffer pressed her to explain herself, and she was subsequently arrested.