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Chinese woman accused of trying to infiltrate Mar-a-Lago

Secret Service confiscates thumb drive loaded with malware

Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida
Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Federal authorities have charged a Chinese woman with trying to infiltrate Mar-a-Lago over the weekend while President Donald Trump was staying at his South Florida resort.

Officials said she was carrying four cellphones and computer equipment, including a thumb drive containing malware. 

The incident comes after national security analysts have questioned the level of security at the club, dubbed the winter White House. At times, Trump has made important foreign policy decisions within earshot of club members.

According to court documents, Yujing Zhang approached a security checkpoint around noon at the president's private Palm Beach club, telling Secret Service agents that she wanted to use the pool area.

The agents mistakenly believed she was the daughter of a Mar-a-Lago club member with the same last name and let her through.

However, Zhang did not to go the pool area. Instead, she took a golf cart to the main reception area of the club, the documents said. Zhang told the Secret Service agents at the reception area that she was at the club for a United Nations event, but a Mar-a-Lago receptionist knew no such event existed and confirmed that she was not a member of the club.

In addition to the electronic equipment, she was carrying two Chinese passports, the documents said.

Agents said Zhang at times pretended not to understand English in order to gain further access to the club. Later agents said Zhang "exhibited a detailed knowledge" of the English language.

She told agents that she traveled to Florida from Shanghai in an attempt to speak with a member of the president's family about Chinese and American foreign economic relations. 

The Secret Service said in a statement its agents followed standard procedure when screening Zhang. Trump was not at the Mar-a-Largo property at the time of the incident.

"The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity. The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property," a spokesperson for the Secret Service said.