Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Chinese national convicted for trespassing at Trump's Florida resort

Trial marked by bizarre behaviour and unanswered questions over businesswoman’s presence at Trump property

Yujing Zhang, flanked by two US marshals, stands to leave after she was found guilty of lying to a federal officer and trespassing at U.S.President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, in a sketch made at US District Court in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. Reuters
Yujing Zhang, flanked by two US marshals, stands to leave after she was found guilty of lying to a federal officer and trespassing at U.S.President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, in a sketch made at US District Court in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. Reuters

A Chinese national who bluffed her way into US President Donald Trump's Florida resort, sparking fears that she could pose a security threat, was found guilty on Wednesday of lying to a federal officer and trespassing.

Yujing Zhang, 33, blinking rapidly as each of the 12 jurors told US District Judge Roy Altman they agreed she was guilty on all counts, a decision reached after about four hours' deliberation and a two-day trial.

Yujing faces up to a year in prison, a year of supervised release and a $1,000 (Dh3,672) fine for trespassing when she is sentenced on November 22.

She also faces up to five years in jail, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for lying to a federal agent.

Flanked by two US marshals, Yujing listened as Mr Altman ordered her to be remanded to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

She was led out of the Fort Lauderdale courtroom without incident, smiling politely.

Yujing was wearing the same pink shirt and tan pants she has worn since the start of the trial.

She made international headlines in March when she was arrested carrying electronic devices at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Yujing insisted on representing herself at the Fort Lauderdale district court, despite pleas from Mr Altman.

She delayed the start of jury selection on Monday by complaining that she did not have the right underwear for the trial.

What Yujing was doing on Mr Trump's private property was not disclosed by prosecutors.

Her actions at the resort sparked concerns that she might have been a spy, although she was charged only with trespassing and making false statements.

Prosecutors focused on trying to prove she used deception to gain unlawful access.

Yujing insisted she was entitled to enter Mar-a-Lago because she had paid $20,000 to attend a US-China economic development event there.

"I did nothing wrong," she told jurors in halting English in her closing argument. "I did not lie."

Assistant US attorney Rolando Garcia said Yujing had been told in advance that the event had been cancelled and she had demanded her money back.

Mr Garcia said she tricked US Secret Service agents to get past security checkpoints by saying she was the relative of a club who had the same family name.

"She knew she wasn't supposed to be there," Mr Garcia said.

At the time of her arrest, Yujing had four mobile phones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive later found to contain "malicious malware", the Secret Service said in a court filing.

A search of her Palm Beach hotel room reportedly uncovered nearly $8,000 in cash and a device meant to detect hidden cameras.

Some US experts say her attempt to enter the club was so clumsy that, while she has been linked to the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, it was hard to believe she was a spy.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had not heard anything about Yujing having any connection to the Chinese government.

Updated: September 12, 2019 03:34 AM

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