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Mar-a-Lago suspect deemed a flight risk and denied bail
[WEST PALM BEACH] The international finance consultant accused of illegally entering President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida knew several days before she traveled to the United States that the gala she had paid to attend had been canceled, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The disclosure raised new questions about the intentions of the woman, Yujing Zhang, 33, who told authorities she had come to attend a United Nations Chinese Friendship Association event associated with a gala that night. Instant messages recovered from one of her cellphones revealed that Zhang had been told even before she left Shanghai that the Mar-a-Lago event had been canceled, Rolando Garcia, an assistant United States attorney, told the court.
Zhang had texted back, Mr Garcia said, "wanting to know why the event was canceled".
Magistrate Judge William Matthewman of the US District Court in West Palm Beach rejected Zhang's bid to be released on bail, concluding that there was a substantial risk she could flee the country if released before her trial on charges of entering restricted property and making false statements to a federal agent.
"It does appear to the court that Ms Zhang was up to something nefarious," the judge said.
Mr Matthewman said his decision to deny bail was based in part on the sheer variety of electronics Zhang carried with her, including a laptop, an external hard drive and four cellphones. A sweep of Zhang's room at the Colony Hotel near the resort turned up a device used to detect hidden cameras, nine jump drives and five SIM cards, authorities said, along with 75 US$100 bills.
"The added fact that she was one to two feet, arm's length, of a computer at Mar-a-Lago is also extremely concerning," Mr Matthewman said. "The nature of the crimes and the charges are very serious and very troubling".
Federal prosecutors have emphasised that Zhang is not being charged with espionage.