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Chinese woman found guilty of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago, lying to federal agents

Posted: 9:40 AM, Sep 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-11 19:58:15-04
WPTV-YUJING-ZHANG-MAR-A-LAGO.jpg

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Chinese woman has been found guilty after lying her way into President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on Palm Beach earlier this year.

After four hours of deliberations on Wednesday, jurors convicted 33-year-old Yujing Zhang of entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds, as well as making false statements to a federal officer.

Zhang appeared unfazed as the verdict was read.

The Chinese national faces up to six years in federal prison when she's sentenced on Nov. 22, and will likely be deported once her sentence is completed.

On Tuesday, Zhang proclaimed her innocence during closing arguments.

"As you've seen from the very beginning, I made [a] contract to go to Mar-a-Lago to see [the] President," Zhang told jurors. "I do think it's a fact that I did nothing wrong."

Zhang added that she did not lie to Secret Service agents, as prosecutors accused her of.

"I followed instruction to when I went into Mar-a-Lago for the visit," Zhang said. "So that's what I want to say, thank you."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia delivered closing remarks for the prosecution, saying Zhang had a contract to visit Mar-a-Lago for a United Nations Friendship Event, but was told the event was canceled, yet still flew to the United States and showed up at President Trump's club.

"Two days before she flies to the United States, she is being told this event has been canceled," Garcia told the jury.

Garcia also repeatedly accused Zhang of lying to gain access to Mar-a-Lago.

"[Zhang] clearly knew that she did not have permission to be there. Period," Garcia said. "She knew there was no event. She knew there was no event days before."

RELATED: Hundreds of jail phone calls released in Yujing Zhang case

According to her arrest affidavit, Zhang lied her way into the reception area of Mar-a-Lago on March 30 by falsely telling security she was a member and was going to swim.

The affidavit said Zhang showed security two Republic of China passports, both in the name of 'Zhang' with her photograph.

At first, security was unable to verify Zhang's name on Mar-a-Lago's guest access list. However "due to a potential language barrier issue, Mar-a-Lago believed her to be the relative of member Zhang and allowed her access onto the property," the affidavit stated.

Once entering the reception area, Zhang told a receptionist she was at Mar-a-Lago for a United Nations Friendship Event between the U.S. and China, which wasn't actually taking place.

Zhang claimed "she came to Mar-a-Lago early for the event so she could familiarize herself with the property and take pictures. Zhang stated she had documentation purportedly showing her invitation to the event, but agents were unable to read it as it was in Chinese," the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, due to Zhang's lack of legitimate documentation, as well as contradictory statements she made to Secret Service agents, she was detained and taken to the agency's West Palm Beach office for questioning.

Agents said Zhang was carrying four cell phones, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive initially thought to have had malware installed on it. It was later determined there was no malware on the thumb drive.

In addition, federal prosecutors said agents found a device in Zhang's hotel room that could detect hidden cameras. They also discovered $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency, nine USB drives, five USB cards, and several credit cards in her name.

Prosecutors said Zhang has no ties to South Florida, and it's unclear what her motive was.