Chinese woman arrested at Trump resort with malware on thumb drive

Beachgoers walk along Ocean Ave near the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida April 5, 2017. — Reuters pic
Beachgoers walk along Ocean Ave near the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida April 5, 2017. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, April 3 — A Chinese woman carrying multiple cellphones and a thumb drive containing malware was arrested on Saturday at US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida while he was staying there, court documents revealed yesterday.

An arrest document in the federal district court of Palm Beach, Florida said Zhang Yujing tried to gain entry into Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, first presenting herself as a member and saying she was headed to the pool — despite not having a swimsuit. Then, she claimed to be attending a non-existent Chinese-American friendship event.

After she was detained, she offered an additional story: That she was asked by a Chinese friend named Charles to travel from Shanghai to attend the event and attempt to speak to a member of the president’s family about US-China economic relations, the document said.

The woman carried two passports from the People’s Republic of China, according to the US Secret Service which arrested her. The charge documents mistakenly identified them as being from the “Republic of China,” the official name of Taiwan.

Secret Service agents at the scene found four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumb drive that “contained malicious software”, according to the document.

Zhang was arrested and charged with making false statements to federal officers and knowingly entering a restricted building — which Mar-a-Lago becomes while Trump is in residence.

Trump owns the luxurious beachside club in the wealthy Atlantic coast city of Palm Beach, and travels there frequently on weekends to play golf and meet friends.

He keeps a residence in a private area of the club, but was reportedly golfing at a nearby course around the time Zhang was there.

While Zhang’s story of attending an event that was not on the club schedule raised suspicions, the Miami Herald reported that there might have been substance to it.

Two events had been recently advertised at Mar-a-Lago for March 30 by a local Chinese-American businesswoman, Cindy Yang, on Chinese language social media, the Herald said.

Yang is a Mar-a-Lago member who built and later sold a chain of massage parlours in Florida, which were recently raided by police over prostitution. In recent years she has promoted herself as a path of access to the US president, his family, and other decision-makers.

Yang’s website featured pictures of her with Trump and other members of his family and senior administration officials.

The Herald also said that an event promoter who Yang worked with was named Charles Lee. — AFP

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