Chinese Mar-a-Lago trespasser found guilty | News | DW | 11.09.2019
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Chinese Mar-a-Lago trespasser found guilty

A Chinese businesswoman's bizarre breach of US President Trump's resort made headlines after she was caught with electronic equipment and $8,000 in cash. Yujing Zhang could be sentenced to up to six years in prison.

A Chinese businesswoman was convicted of trespassing at US President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and lying to secret service agents on Wednesday.

The 12-person jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida reached the verdict after four hours of deliberations following a two-day trial.

Yujing Zhang, a 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant who acted as her own lawyer after firing her public defenders, will now face up to six years in prison.

As the court's verdict was read, Zhang showed no emotion, smiling neutrally and speaking calmly with federal marshals.

Read moreEx-CIA officer pleads guilty to espionage conspiracy with China

March in Mar-a-Lago

Yujing Zhang was arrested in a bizarre incident in March after gaining access to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club by lying to secret service agents. At the time of her arrest she was carrying four cellphones, a laptop and an external hard drive, say prosecutors.

Zhang told the secret service agents that she was on the premises to visit the pool, and then told a receptionist that she was there for a United Nations Chinese Friendship Association event (not associated with the UN). Prosecutors later said that the event had been cancelled and Zhang had been informed.

Yujing Zhang, left, a Chinese woman charged with lying to illegally enter President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, listens to a hearing earlier this year.

Yujing Zhang, left, a Chinese woman charged with lying to illegally enter President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, listens to a hearing earlier this year.

When agents searched her nearby hotel room, they found more electronics including a device to detect hidden cameras, as well as €7,200 ($8,000) in cash and a number of credit and debit cards.

Read more: Hundreds of Russian and Chinese spies in Brussels — report

Although her behavior raised concerns that she might have been a spy, she was not charged with espionage.

Unclear motive

Zhang's public defenders said that she had come to Mar-a-Lago to attend the Friendship Association event, which was part of a $20,000 travel package she purchased from a man she knew only from social media named "Charles.”

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

Read more:US: Donald Trump reacts to China with tariff increase

Though the jurors did establish Zhang's guilt in the trial, the court did not get to the bottom her motives for being at Mar-a-Lago.

The president and his family were at Mar-a-Lago on the weekend of Zhang's arrest, but Zhang never approached him.

mmc/se (AP, Reuters)

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