A 32-year-old girl from China carrying 4 cellphones and a thumb drive contaminated with malware gained entry to Mar-a-Lago throughout President Trump’s go to to the Florida resort over the weekend, federal court docket data present.
The girl, recognized as Yujing Zhang, had arrived on the Palm Beach resort and confirmed two Chinese passports when she sought to be admitted, saying she needed to make use of the pool.
She was allowed to enter by Secret Service brokers stationed exterior the resort after the Mar-a-Lago safety supervisor on obligation verified that her final identify matched the surname of a member of the membership, in accordance with a criticism filed in Federal District Court in South Florida.
When requested if she was the member’s daughter, “she did not give a definitive answer,” the criticism stated. It stated she was permitted to enter and was escorted to the entrance desk in a valet-driven golf cart.
Once inside, in accordance with the account filed with the court docket, the girl stated she was there to attend a United Nations Chinese American Association occasion later within the night. But no such occasion existed, in accordance with the criticism, so the membership receptionist alerted the Secret Service. Though she had initially stated she had come to make use of the pool, she was not carrying a swimsuit, the criticism stated.
Ms. Zhang advised the agent who questioned her on website that she was there for a “United Nations friendship event” and had arrived early to see the pool and take images. She confirmed the agent an invite to the supposed occasion — however it was in Chinese and nobody current might learn it.
At that time, the Secret Service agent escorted her off the property. The agent continued to query her, and when the agent recommended that she had unlawfully gained entry to the membership, she grew to become “verbally aggressive” and was detained, the criticism states. From there, she was taken to the Secret Service’s workplace in West Palm Beach.
During the second interview, Ms. Zhang advised the authorities Chinese pal named Charles had advised her to journey from Shanghai to Palm Beach to be able to attend the United Nations friendship occasion and stated that she ought to attempt to communicate with a member of the president’s household about Chinese and American overseas financial relations.
The brokers had been unable to study extra about Charles, as Ms. Zhang advised them that she had solely spoken to him by way of the Chinese immediate messaging app WeChat.
When the authorities searched her belongings, they discovered that she was carrying 4 cellphones, a tough drive, a laptop computer and a thumb drive that was discovered to be contaminated with malware.
She was arrested at that time and charged with mendacity to a federal agent and getting access to a restricted space.
At the time of the incident shortly after midday on Saturday, Mr. Trump was off-site, on the close by Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. He didn’t return to the resort till four p.m.
The Secret Service stated in a press release that figuring out who will get entry to Mar-a-Lago is as much as the resort’s administration; getting into the resort doesn’t allow entry to areas utilized by the president, which require extra safety screening, it stated.
It stated brokers do conduct a bodily screening to verify no prohibited gadgets enter the property, and did so within the case of Ms. Zhang.
“After undergoing screening at the second Secret Service checkpoint the individual, per club protocol, was immediately met by club reception,” the assertion stated. “The Mar-a-Lago reception staff then determined that the individual should not have been authorized access by their staff and Secret Service agents took immediate action resulting in the arrest of the individual.”
Ms. Zhang’s lawyer, a federal public defender, didn’t reply to a request for remark, nor did the administration at Mar-a-Lago.
Access to Mr. Trump by Chinese nationals grew to become a difficulty final month, when information media reports surfaced showing that a Chinese-American woman in Florida who once owned a chain of Asian massage parlors that had been investigated for prostitution had attended a number of events there, and had been photographed there with the president and other officials.
The woman, Cindy Yang, collected contributions directed toward Mr. Trump’s campaign from her friends, family and employees, and had a website on which she advertised that she could provide access to the Trump administration.
Ms. Yang had advertised an event for March 30 — the day of Ms. Zhang’s arrest — called the “International Leaders Elite Forum,” described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and the first event at Mar-a-Lago with “the Chinese as the protagonist,” The Miami Herald reported. The event was later canceled. Ms. Yang worked with an event promoter named Charles Lee, who runs a group called the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association, which is similar to the name of the event that Ms. Zhang cited, the newspaper reported.
The criminal complaint filed Monday did not draw any connection between Ms. Zhang and Ms. Yang or any of the Chinese-American events scheduled over the weekend.
Elaborate security measures are set up around Mr. Trump’s exclusive, members-only club, which he frequently visits on weekends away from Washington. When the president is in town, roadblocks are set up in the street leading up to the resort and uniformed Secret Service agents typically establish a large security screening area across the street, with a large sign notifying visitors that they are entering a restricted area.
Mar-a-Lago club members are allowed past the initial screening checkpoint and inside the protective perimeter.
Security breaches surrounding American presidents have been a major issue in recent years.
There have been several cases of intruders scaling the White House fence and entering the grounds. In one episode in 2014, a man carrying a knife, Omar J. Gonzalez, managed to overpower a Secret Service agent inside the North Portico entrance and run through the ceremonial East Room before he was tackled.
Weeks after Mr. Trump took office, another man was able to elude multiple layers of security before being stopped near the entrance at the South Portico. In that case, Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, who was carrying a backpack, jumped over a fence and came within several steps of the White House while the president was inside the residence.
In perhaps the most notable example, in 2009, a Virginia couple sneaked into a White House state dinner and shook hands with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as they stood in the receiving line. Known later as the “State Dinner crashers,” the intrusion by Michaele and Tareq Salahi prompted an internal Secret Service investigation and demands for a congressional inquiry.
Security agents on several occasions in the past have had to turn away people who tried to enter the Mar-a-Lago resort, some with the apparent intention of approaching the president.
In several cases, according to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reviewed police incident reports, members of the public arrived and told security agents that they had arranged meetings with Mr. Trump.
A 27-year-old Ohio man flew in to Palm Beach International Airport and was flagged to Secret Service agents in April 2018 after he told people he was planning to smoke marijuana with the president; a 32-year-old Georgia man wearing military-style fatigues told local sheriff’s deputies in February of that year that he had an important message “about the war” to deliver to Mr. Trump.
Don Mihalek, executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents the Secret Service, said the episode showed how much the Secret Service relied on the security at Mar-a-Lago.
He said the fact that Secret Service agents apparently relied on the determination by a Mar-a-Lago security agent that Ms. Zhang was related to a member of the club — simply because she shared the member’s last name — was problematic.
“It’s a hard position for Secret Service to be in to potentially deny a million-dollar committee member,” Mr. Mihalek said. “It puts Secret Service in a very difficult position because we don’t know who are members and who aren’t.”
“You’re depending on them to say this is an employee and this isn’t an employee. We work off a list of names,” he said. “Our priority is, are you coming in with explosives or not.”
Ms. Zhang, who court records say was born in 1986, appeared in court in Palm Beach on Monday, and a bond hearing was scheduled for next week, court records show.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.