Woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago to remain jailed; judge says she was ‘up to something nefarious’

By Lori Rozsa and Mark Berman | Washington Post

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A judge here ruled Monday that a Chinese woman must remain jailed following charges that she lied to a federal officer after entering Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s resort, saying he deemed her a flight risk.

During a hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman appeared swayed by the argument made by federal prosecutors that Yujing Zhang — who authorities said made her way through Mar-a-Lago’s security last month before being arrested carrying multiple cellphones and other electronics — had ulterior motives in accessing the president’s club.

It appeared that “Ms. Zhang was up to something nefarious,” Matthewman said during the hearing.

Zhang was indicted by a grand jury, charging her with the same two counts — entering restricted grounds and making a false statement to the Secret Service — she faced previously, according to the indictment filed Friday. On Monday, she entered a plea of not guilty and asked for a jury trial.

Her ability to enter Mar-a-Lago and subsequent arrest heightened questions about security at the resort frequented by the president, where members — who are also his paying customers — and guests can be in the same room as the commander in chief. Intelligence officials have suggested that foreign spies who never see Trump could still find value in a room filled with his aides and associates.

Additional charges in the case are “possible,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia told Matthewman on Monday.

Garcia also amended a statement authorities made previously in the case. While officials have said that Zhang was arrested carrying a thumb drive with malware — or malicious software — on Monday, he said that appeared to be a “false positive.”

At a hearing last week, Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich had testified that when agents inserted the thumb drive into a computer, “a file immediately began to install itself.” But on Monday, Garcia said officials could not replicate the malware problem on a second computer.

Prosecutors have previously suggested that Zhang was deceptive and, during a hearing last week, said she could flee if released. They reiterated that on Monday, and Matthewman said he believed she would go to China if they let her out on bond.

Zhang faces no charges of espionage in the high-profile case, and Garcia said during her hearing last week that there were no allegations she was “a spy or this is espionage.”

Before deciding that she should remain behind bars, Matthewman said: “I have not and shall not consider any political or other irrelevant issues swirling around this case.”

The indictment filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida similarly makes no mention of any espionage elements, noting only that she “knowingly” entered restricted grounds. It goes on to state that she told a Secret Service agent “she was there to attend a ‘United Nations Friendship Event,’ when in truth and in fact, and as the defendant then and there …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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