No espionage charges were laid against Yujing Zhang, arrested in Mar-a-Lago

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Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman arrested while she was attempting to enter Mar-a-Lago, went to the private social club of President Donald Trump, extending over a distance of 8 500 km, stating that she wanted to attend a charity gala.

But before leaving China, Zhang knew that the job had been canceled, according to a source close to the investigation into the security breach in Mar-a-Lago.

She had even asked for a refund to the event organizers for a $ 20,000 travel package including a ticket for the canceled service of March 30, said the source, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue. An ongoing investigation into national security.

The information, revealed after a search of his electronic devices by federal agents, could undermine the defense's argument that it was true when it told US intelligence agents that it was in Mar-a- Lago for a scheduled activity.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Zhang with lying to a federal officer and entering restricted areas. His indictment and detention hearing is scheduled for Monday at the West Palm Beach Federal Court House.

Kristy Militello, one of Zhang's federal public defense assistants, declined to comment when her client asked why her client had traveled so far for an event that had been canceled.

The indictment does not include espionage charges, although the authorities continue to treat his case as a matter of national security, sources close to the investigation said. Zhang's case is part of a broader investigation by counter-intelligence services into a possible Chinese spying on Trump.

Zhang arrived at the Palm Beach club around noon on March 30 with a USB stick infected with malware and other electronic devices, according to the secret service.

After being stopped by a receptionist, Zhang told an agent that she had arrived early for an event scheduled that night, according to an affidavit. There was no such event on the calendar and Zhang was arrested. Zhang knew that "no such event was planned in Mar-a-Lago and on his land," the indictment said.

Zhang, 33, could be sentenced to five years imprisonment for lying to a federal officer and one year for entering a restricted place, and up to $ 350,000 fine, according to court documents.

Authorities could still sue for spying on Zhang, a Shanghai-based financial and consulting investor. When she was arrested, she was carrying four cell phones, a computer, an external hard drive and a USB key. A signal detector – used to spot hidden cameras – was found in his hotel room, along with other electronic devices and over 8,000 US dollars in US and Chinese currency, said a federal prosecutor at a previous hearing.

The FBI is still examining Zhang's electronic devices and suspected malware. Prosecutors may discuss the status of this review during his scheduled appearance Monday afternoon.

Zhang's arrest revived a broader federal investigation into possible Chinese spy operations in South Florida, which had been opened late last year. Li "Cindy" Yang, owner of Florida's South Florida Day Spa, is also among the investigators. He also ran a trucking company of Donald Trump and Mar-a-Lago. Yang promoted on Chinese-language social media the event that Zhang had paid to attend.

At Monday's hearing, Federal Judge William Matthewman will decide to order Zhang's continued detention or bail. Zhang entered the country on March 28 through the Newark Liberty International Airport on a 10-year tourist visa issued to her in 2016. This visa was canceled as a result of the charges against her.

If she gets a bond, Zhang will be detained for immigration and will probably be deported.

An attempt to enter Mar-a-Lago

In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Zhang had no valid reason to be in Mar-a-Lago and lied to be able to enter.

Zhang crossed the first secret service checkpoint in Mar-a-Lago by telling officers that she wanted to use the pool, according to the affidavit filed by the secret service. She was allowed to pass when staff members mistakenly identified her as the daughter of a club member with the same last name, one of the three most common family names. in China.

When she was interviewed by a receptionist at the second checkpoint, Ms. Zhang said that she had arrived early to attend an "event for friendship with the United Nations" later scheduled in the day. No events were planned under this name. A US prosecutor's office attorney said in court last Monday that Zhang had invented this non-existent event as a pretext for illegal entry into Mar-a-Lago.

"When asked if she was allowed to be part of the Mar-a-Lago club and its grounds, the defendant stated that she was there to attend a" friendship event. " United Nations, "they knew that no such event was planned in Mar-a-Lago and on its land," says the indictment.

Zhang's public defender rebuffed Monday's hearing, claiming that Zhang had not lied because she had paid to attend a "Safari Night" gala organized for a youth charity and animated by Elizabeth Trump Grau, the president's sister, originally scheduled for this night.

Safari Night had been announced on Chinese social media by Yang as the top international elite, which would include Trump Grau as a special guest.

While interviewed in Mar-a-Lago, Zhang told the agents that she had been invited to Mar-a-Lago by a man named Charles, who, according to his lawyer, was Yang Lee's associate, Charles. Lee. Lee heads the Chinese Friendship Association of the United Nations, an unrelated group with the UN, which Lee used to announce the events of Yang at Mar-Lago, including Safari Night 2018. On the website, Lee's customers had to make payments to Beijing Peace. and Friendship Management Consulting Co. Ltd. – the same company that received $ 20,000 from Zhang on February 19, 2019, according to a receipt presented as evidence by Zhang's lawyers.

The name Zhang gave is similar to the name of Lee's organization. It is not known if Zhang has already been officially registered as a guest for Safari Night.


In Mar-a-Lago in January 2018, Cindy Yang poses with Dr. Charles Lee, who promotes his events to his clients in China.


Terry Bomar, founder of the youth mentor charity behind the Safari Night, said he had canceled the gala before Yang and his associates handed him a list of people that they had invited, which means that Zhang could or could not be on their guest list.

"I knew people [they invited] arrived but no one had ever given me a single name, "Bomar said Friday. "I only had the names of people who had bought me tables."

He testified that he was questioned by federal agents about the operation of ticket sales for Safari Night.

"This is not what I expected" when planning a charity event, he said.

Caitlin Ostroff is a reporter for McClatchy's Miami Herald office. It uses data analysis and coding to present and log information as part of the investigation team.

Jay Weaver writes about the bad guys who specialize in con jobs, scams and millions escorts. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he has covered federal courts without interruption, from the battle for Elian's custody to the use of steroids by A-Rod. He was part of the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its topicality in 2001.

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