Prosecutors want judge to give convicted Mar-a-Lago intruder extra prison time

Yujing Zhang.PNG
Late Tuesday afternoon, a federal jury started deliberating the case against Yujing Zhang, who's charged with trespassing and lying to agents at President Donald Trump's winter White House in Palm Beach. (WPEC)

Prosecutors are requesting that a judge give a harsher penalty for Yujing Zhang, the Chinese national who was convicted for sneaking into Mar-a-Lago.

Zhang was convicted in September after she was found guilty of lying to the Secret Service to sneak into President Trump's club. She represented herself at trial and claimed during opening statements she did nothing wrong. When she was arrested, authorities said they found Zhang in possession of a number of cell phones, USB drives, a thumb drive believed to be full of malware, and a signal detector to check for hidden cameras.

Now, the U.S. Attorney's Office is asking for the court to "vary upward to 18 months imprisonment," according to federal court documents. Prosecutors say Zhang claimed only to have $5,000 in her bank account but didn't tell the court that in September 2018, she transferred $18,000 from her bank account to a U.S. based brokerage account. Another $20,185 was transferred into that brokerage account from a Chinese bank in 2017.

"Without an upward variance, Zhang’s obstructive conduct in lying to the Magistrate Judge essentially goes unpunished," the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote. "Not only did Zhang lie to the court but she also lied to practically everyone she encountered in the United States."

Shortly before her arrest, she told the receptionist at Mar-a-Lago that she was there for a United Nations Chinese American Association event later that evening, according to federal court documents. Then she told Secret Service that she was there for a United Nations Friendship Event. She even showed Secret Service an invitation to the nonexistent event.

Zhang also told Secret Service that her Chinese friend "Charles" told her to travel from Shanghai to Palm Beach to attend the United Nations Friendship event.

"Zhang clearly knew that the supposed event did not exist based on the WeChat conversation retrieved from her cellphone," the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote. "Despite knowing that, she purchased a one-way ticket from Shanghai, China to Palm Beach in order to sneak on Mar-a-Lago while the President and family members were in Palm Beach."

She will be sentenced Nov. 22. She also faces more than $250,000 in fines.