Chinese woman sentenced to 8 months for trespassing at Pres. Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A federal judge has sentenced a Chinese businesswoman to eight months in prison for trespassing at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and lying to Secret Service agents.

Judge Roy Altman also ordered Monday that 33-year-old Yujing Zhang be deported after completing her sentence. She received nearly eight months credit because she has been jailed since her arrest March 30, so she has about one more week to serve.

Altman said it was a serious offense to trespass on a government property, particularly one where the president is staying.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia argued for an 18-month sentence, saying Zhang lied to everybody to get into Mar-a-Lago including Secret Service agents, the club's receptionist and even her taxi driver. Garcia also pointed to the electronics found on her person and in her hotel.

The 33-year-old Shanghai consultant acted as her own attorney during her September trial.

She had no prior criminal record.

When Zhang was arrested, she was carrying four cellphones, a computer and an external hard drive and her hotel contained more electronics and cash.

That led to speculation she might be a spy, but she was never charged with espionage.

Instead, text messages outlined at her trial and posted to her court file after her conviction suggest she is obsessed with wealth and had hoped to meet the president or his family to discuss possible business deals, along with other U.S. executives.

She also seemed to have an inflated sense of her importance, thinking she could get meetings with top officials despite having no international profile.

Zhang's troubles began in February when she paid $20,000 to "Charles," a man she knew only online, to attend a Chinese-American friendship event at Mar-a-Lago on March 30 as part of a seven-day excursion that included trips to Washington, D.C., and New York City.

The Mar-a-Lago event promised a photo with the president or a member of his family. Such meet-and-greets are common at Mar-a-Lago, the exclusive club Trump has run since 1995 on the grounds of a 1920s mansion built by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Zhang's former public defenders believe "Charles" is Charles Lee, a Chinese national who ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association.

It is not affiliated with the U.N. He was photographed at least twice with Cindy Yang, a Republican donor and former Florida massage parlor owner who organized Mar-a-Lago events.

In March text messages that the FBI translated from Mandarin, Zhang told Charles she wasn't interested in visiting Walt Disney World, the U.S. Capitol or other sightseeing - except the White House and the New York Stock Exchange.

Instead, she wanted to meet officials from Morgan Stanley, Citi Bank, Tesla and the U.S. Commerce Department. "I will try my best," he replied.

She later asked him to arrange meetings with members of Congress.

After three days, Charles texted that the Mar-a-Lago event had been canceled but he could get her into other events featuring Bill and Hillary Clinton or billionaire Warren Buffett. He suggested the Clintons have connections she could meet.

"The presidents are all supported by the wealthy capitalists," Charles wrote. "These people always come forward for these events. Those are really the Wall Street big wigs." Imagine the photo and how it would improve her business, he added.

"A pretty girl like you standing in the middle and on one side is the state secretary and on the other is the president. That is a great deal and think about the impact," Charles wrote.

Instead, Zhang demanded a refund. Prosecutors said this proved she knew the Trump meet-and-greet was off and her arrival at Mar-a-Lago wasn't a misunderstanding.

Zhang flew to the United States on March 28. Two days later, a taxi dropped her off at the Secret Service screening area across from Mar-a-Lago.

The president and his family were visiting the club, although he was playing golf at his nearby course and Zhang was never near him.

Agent Krystle Kerr testified that Zhang said she was there to visit the pool. Mar-a-Lago managers thought she might be the daughter of a member named Zhang and admitted her.

Zhang told a receptionist she was there for the U.N. event, but the woman knew no such event was scheduled and alerted the Secret Service.

Agent Sam Ivanovich testified Zhang told him she was there for a Chinese-American event and showed him an invitation in Mandarin, which he doesn't speak.

He said a search found Zhang's computer and other electronics.

She told agents she feared they would be stolen if she left them in her hotel room. However, when agents searched her room they discovered in the open more electronic gear - including a device to detect hidden cameras - $8,000 in cash and numerous credit and debit cards.

Ivanovich said Zhang lied again, saying she never told Kerr she was there to visit the pool. She carried no swimsuit.

She was then arrested and has been jailed since. She cannot be reached for comment.
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