WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Chinese woman who was arrested after gaining entry to President Trump’s private club while carrying four cellphones and other electronic equipment had even more electronics in her hotel room, including a device used to detect hidden cameras, a federal prosecutor said Monday.
The woman, Yujing Zhang, who was born in 1986, was arrested March 30 after telling Secret Service agents that she had come to use the pool at Mar-a-Lago and showing two Chinese passports. After the authorities determined that the event she said she had come to attend did not exist, she was arrested and charged with lying to a federal officer and accessing a restricted area.
Ms. Zhang had entered the property with four cellphones, a hard drive and a thumb drive infected with malware, according to federal court records. Upon searching her hotel room, investigators found another cellphone and a radio frequency device that detects hidden cameras, Assistant United States Attorney Rolando Garcia said during a bond hearing at the U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach on Monday.
She also had nine U.S.B. drives and five SIM cards in her room at the Colony Hotel, along with several debit cards and about $8,000 in cash, including about $700 in Chinese currency, Mr. Garcia said.
Mr. Garcia told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman that Ms. Zhang is a “serious flight risk” because she “lies to everyone that she encounters.”
Ms. Zhang had initially told authorities at the club that she carried multiple phones to the resort because she was afraid to leave them in her hotel room, Mr. Garcia said. She had previously told the court in an appearance last week that she had only about $5,000 in the bank.
“Someone who is afraid of her property being stolen at the hotel does not leave so much cash and credit cards in a hotel room,” Mr. Garcia said.
Ms. Zhang came to the United States on March 28 from Shanghai on a B-1 visa that has been revoked, meaning that if the court does release her from jail pending trial, she would be transferred to immigration custody, Mr. Garcia said.
“She has really no ties to the Southern District of Florida, or the United States of America, for that matter,” he said.
Ms. Zhang’s assistant federal public defender, Robert Adler, said in the court hearing that Ms. Zhang did not attempt to hide the four cellphones when she entered the club. He stressed to the judge that she is not charged with espionage.
“We have heard the government has no reason to believe Ms. Zhang was a spy,” Mr. Adler said.
The Secret Service agent who questioned Ms. Zhang after her arrest, Samuel Ivanovich, said during testimony that she did not carry any lock-picking or eavesdropping gear. His four-and-a-half hour interrogation of Ms. Zhang was recorded by video, Mr. Ivanovich said, but it lacked sound because he didn’t realize that the agency’s office in Palm Beach didn’t have that capability.
Mr. Ivanovich testified that the computer analyst who reviewed Ms. Zhang’s devices said that the thumb drive she was carrying had immediately begun installing a program on his computer.
“He stated that he had to immediately stop the analysis and shut off his computer to halt the corruption,” Mr. Ivanovich said.
Mr. Adler said there was nothing to suggest that Ms. Zhang was a spy, but prosecutors said that was irrelevant to the question of whether she should be let out on bond, because that’s not what she was charged with.
“What did she actually do?” Mr. Adler said. “What she did was the equivalent of saying, ‘My name is Smith, I’d like to use the pool.’”
The judge postponed a decision on whether to release her on bond until next week, to give the defense time to bring people from China who could support Ms. Zhang’s story.