A Chinese woman, Yujing Zhang, 32, was arrested on 30 March after trying to illegally enter Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Trump was actually on the property at the time although Zhang was never anywhere near him.
She had told a security guard at a checkpoint that she was a member. She actually made it into the complex before being caught at the reception desk when her story did not check out. She was taken for questioning, searched after her arrest and was found to be carrying two Chinese passports, no less than four mobile phones and a thumb drive on which a malware program was installed.
A search of her hotel room yielded $7,500 in one hundred dollar bills, a device used to detect hidden cameras, nine encrypted USB drives, five SIM cards and yet another mobile phone. She was charged with illegal entry to a restricted area and lying to a federal agent. She could face up to five years in prison.
If this was an espionage operation, it was astonishingly cack-handed. A spy would not offer up two passports as it simply raises suspicion; nor would a trained operative carry around such a wealth of evidence in the form of SIM cards and USB drives. As for the camera detector, given the experience of many tourists especially in the Far East, this may soon become standard tourist kit.
The evidence that Zhang has provided so far makes it seem that she was a misguided dupe who thought she had paid for access to a real Presidential event rather than being a Chinese spy. Although she has been charged, the US authorities are continuing to investigate.