Investigators told a judge on Monday that when they searched the hotel room of 33-year-old Yujing Zhang, who had talked her way into Mar-a-Lago a week ago, they found a device to root out hidden cameras using radio frequency, a cell phone, nine USB drives, five SIM cards, credit and debit cards and about $8,000 in US cash and $700 in Chinese currency.
Zhang was arrested at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, March 30, after she was questioned by Secret Service agents and found to have on her person two Chinese passports, four cell phones, a laptop, and a thumb drive loaded with malware — malicious software meant to break into and sometimes steal private information.
She’d been admitted to Mar-a-Lago because a member of the staff, unable to understand her or to make himself understood, or so he thought, believed that she was a relative of a club member.
Secret Service Agent Samuel Ivanovich told the judge in federal court in West Palm Beach that when the thumb drive found on Zhang was inserted into another agent’s computer, “a file immediately began to install itself.”
“He knew it was something out of the ordinary,” Ivanovich said of his coworker. “He had to immediately stop his analysis and shut down his computer in order to stop it.”
When they searched Zhang’s room at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, investigators found the fifth cell phone, the USB drives, SIM cards, cash and the device that locates hidden cameras.
Zhang’s lawyer insisted that his client had committed no crime in simply asking to enter Mar-a-Lago to use the pool.
Zhang had presented an invitation in Chinese for an event that had been canceled — a United Nations Chinese American Association event, but had told another staff person that she was there to use the pool, though she had no swimwear with her.
She told investigators that she was an investor in China and that she’d come to Florida from Shanghai hoping to promote business relationships between Americans and Chinese during a visit to Mar-a-Lago. She also said that she had so many cell phones because she was worried about one or more of them being stolen.
But in court, the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rolando Garcia, said he didn’t buy that.
“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,” he told the judge.
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