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Chinese woman arrested at Trump's Florida resort to enter plea

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By Reuters
Chinese woman arrested at Trump's Florida resort to enter plea
FILE PHOTO: Yujing Zhang (L), charged with bluffing her way into President Donald Trump's Florida resort, appears at her hearing at the U.S. federal court in this courtroom sketch, in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Pontet   -   Copyright  STRINGER(Reuters)

(Reuters) – A Chinese woman charged with bluffing her way into U.S. President Donald Trump’s Florida resort last month is expected to enter a plea in federal court on Monday.

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

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.

The indictment does not include espionage charges. Zhang is 32 or 33 years old, according to court documents.

She 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.

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 (£6,106) in cash in her hotel room, prosecutors said.

She remains in custody after being denied bail at a hearing last week in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach.

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

Zhang 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.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Grant McCool)