A federal judge has denied bail to a Chinese woman accused of illegally entering President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida last month, saying she appears to have been “up to something nefarious.”
Yujing Zhang, 33, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Florida Southern District Court to charges of making false statements to federal officers and entering a restricted property on March 30.
Authorities said Zhang entered the members-only club in West Palm Beach after an attendant presumed that she was related to a member who shares her last name. She allegedly neither confirmed nor denied being related to the individual when asked.
Zhang was found carrying two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive that was initially suspected of containing malware at the property. A search of her hotel room also recovered $8,000 cash, multiple USB drives and SIM cards, and a device for detecting hidden cameras, the Palm Beach Daily News reported.
“It does appear to the court that Ms. Zhang was up to something nefarious when she unlawfully attempted to gain access to Mar-a-Lago,” U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman said on Monday, according to Reuters.
Zhang allegedly first told the club’s staff that she was there to use the pool, despite not carrying a bathing suit. She later said she was there to attend a “United Nations Friendship Event,” though no such event was scheduled at Mar-a-Lago, according to the criminal complaint.
The event had existed, according to multiple reports, but had been canceled after it was revealed that a woman connected to the event had owned a massage parlor where Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, is accused of visiting for paid sex acts.
An individual named Charles sent a text to Zhang on March 26, before she left China for the U.S., informing her that the event had been canceled, prosecutors said, citing alleged messages found on her phone.
Zhang is not being charged with espionage, federal prosecutors emphasized. However, Rolando Garcia, an assistant United States attorney, said his team might include additional charges for Zhang.
Her defense attorneys have said that the situation is a result of a misunderstanding because no Mandarin interpreter was provided at the Secret Service checkpoint.
“In order to gain entry, the only thing Ms. Zhang did was give a very common Chinese name and make no claims she was there as a member or family member,” her lawyer, Robert E. Adler said. “I don’t understand how this would support a trespassing charge after making no misrepresentations.”
Zhang’s defense attorneys, in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday, declined to comment on the case due to the pending litigation.