Chinese woman arrested at Trump's Florida resort pleads not guilty

 Chinese woman arrested at Trumps Florida resort pleads not guilty

By Zachary Fagenson

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - A Chinese woman charged with bluffing her way into U.S. President Donald Trump's Florida resort last month, raising concerns about security at one of the president's weekend getaways, entered a not guilty plea on Monday in federal court.

Yujing Zhang was formally indicted on Friday on charges of making false statements to a federal officer and entering or remaining in a restricted area. The counts carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

During her arraignment and detention hearing in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, a federal prosecutor said Zhang could face more charges.

She has not been indicted on any espionage charges. The FBI is examining whether Zhang has any links to intelligence agencies in China or political influence operations, two U.S. government sources have told Reuters.

Zhang, who is either 32 or 33 years old, according to court documents, was arrested on March 30 after giving conflicting reasons for being at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach during one of Trump's weekend visits, an incident that renewed concerns about security at the club.

Trump was not on the premises at the time.

She was briefly allowed onto the property after staff mistakenly thought she might be the daughter of a club member. She aroused suspicions by variously telling Secret Service agents and Mar-a-Lago reception staff that she wanted to use the pool and that she was there for an event that did not appear on the day's schedule, according to prosecutors.

Zhang's lawyer, Robert Adler, has described the incident as a "misunderstanding" and said, "I don't understand how this could be a trespass charge."

Prosecutors have said Zhang was carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumbdrive containing what investigators described as "maliciousmalware" when she was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service.

Investigators found a device to detect hidden cameras, five cell phone SIM cards and over $8,000 in cash in her hotel room, prosecutors said.

Following the Zhang intrusion, congressional Democrats renewed calls for the Trump administration to brief them on Mar-a-Lago security. They initially asked to be briefed in mid-March after news reports that Li “Cindy” Yang, founder of a chain of Florida-based massage parlors, was selling access to Trump and his family to clients from China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier this month he had "no understanding of the situation" when asked about Zhang by reporters.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in West Palm Beach and Jonathan Allen in New York, additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool and Meredith Mazzilli)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Apr 16, 2019 00:08:39 IST