She made it to the reception area of the president’s private club, and she’s made an appearance in court, but precious little is known about a Chinese national trying to finagle her way into Mar-a-Lago. And it seems that Yujing Zhang had packed herself quite a beach bag.
We’re not talking Coppertone and a bikini. By the time Secret Service agents emptied the contents of the 32-year-old’s carry-all, they were able to count:
- Two Chinese passports
- Four cellphones
- One hard drive
- One thumb drive (that just happened to be loaded with malware)
Meanwhile, back at the Zhang ranch – which in this case happened to be the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach — authorities uncovered:
- $8,000 in U.S. currency
- Nine USB drives
- Five SIM cards
- $700 in CNY (Chinese currency)
- One cell phone (that makes for a total of five)
- Radio frequency devices that can detect hidden cameras
Secret Service Blunders
It was as if Q from the Chinese version of MI6 had loaded up this gal with every technological device needed to steal information on the fly. The problem was that her spray bottle of SPF 30 couldn’t hold all the goodies. And here’s the thing: Ms. 007 Zhang blew by loads of security and made it all the way to the reception room of the club before she was snagged.
Naturally, Zhang was trotted off to jail by the authorities, but get this – the agent who interrogated her for almost five hours and recorded it didn’t realize that the video equipment at the Secret Service office in Palm Beach had no sound. That little move is brought to you by Agent Samuel Ivanovich.
Meanwhile, at an initial court appearance, the would-be Chinese sunbather offered up what’s known in the U.S. as a cock-and-bull story that goes like this: She is an investor for Shanghai Zhirong Asset Management. She was invited to Mar-a-Lago by a friend named Charles Lee who operates the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association. Zhang said she paid Lee $20,000 to get into Mar-a-Lago. And guess what Lee was up to? Why he’s been hyping a charity event for a local youth group. Strangely enough (note sarcasm), the event does not appear on the Mar-a-Lago calendar.
Really? If that’s the best the Chinese can do for a cover story, it reveals a total lack of imagination. In fact, prosecutors made the case to U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman that “she [Zhang] lies to everyone,” according to a UPI report.
The judge decided that Zhang will stay behind bars for several more days, when another hearing takes place. But as of this writing, Zhang has not been charged with spying — only with “entering restricted property” and “lying to a federal agent.” This is rather odd since the Chinese have made the NCAA Final Four in cyber-spying for umpteen years. They’re renowned for espionage that allows them to gather patented technology, trade secrets, and more.
Some of the more well-known Chinese spy examples date back to 1952, as in the case of Larry Wu-Tai-Chin, who actually pulled off working at the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service as a translator. Then there’s Chi Mak, who was convicted of spying from his perch at Power Paragon, a U.S. defense contractor. Don’t forget Bo Jiang, Hua Jun Zhao, Walter Liew aka Liu Yuanxuan, Guoqing Cao, Shuyu Li – and these are only the top-tier Chinese spies.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rates China as No. 1 in terms of electronic espionage. That the Chinese are adept at illegally getting their hands on American information is not news. What is is that Zhang has been handled in such a slipshod manner thus far – first by the Secret Service (letting her get so deep into the club compound) and second by the Secret Service (oops, no audio on this five-hour interrogation).
With such a long history of successful covert operations in the U.S., the Chinese were bound to try to gather intel from Trump & Co. Maybe a little something on trade? It’s doubtful the Chinese are picky – after all, knowledge is power, as the saying goes.
Speaking of which, there is a popular Chinese proverb that states, “What you hear about may be false; what you see is true.” In English perhaps we could translate that to “Whatever’s in your beach bag is burning your cover story, baby.”