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By Anna Schecter and Xuan Thai
HIGHLAND BEACH, Fla. – The lawyer for the former owner of a Florida massage parlor says her client, who saw the Super Bowl with President Donald Trump, is just a hardworking Chinese immigrant "living the American dream" and despite media reports on the opposite never tried to sell access to Trump.
Li "Cindy" Yang owns a number of massage parlors in South Florida, and once owned orchids by the Asia Day Spa, where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly requested prostitution. After Kraft's bust, Yang's self-help went with the president of the Trump International Resort's Super Bowl for virus, followed by media questions about whether Yang had used his access to him.
Michelle Merson, one of the lawyers at a team representing Yang, told NBC News that the accusations have shocked her client who has not been accused of anything.
"She is accused of trafficking and favors Chinese politicians and businesses by selling access to the president," said Merson. "She is accused of some very, very serious things, that she is completely in the dark for … [and] she denies everything. "
Although she sold the orchids in the Asian spa long ago, Yang continues to drive other spas, and she contributes money for political and charitable causes, Merson says. Since 2017, Yang has contributed $ 40,000 to Republican and Pro-Trump PACS, according to a record of records, and the locals say she was also known for buying tables on charity events around Palm Beach, sometimes paying cash.
"As far as we know, Yang was just thrilled to be involved in politics and charities and all sorts of things in this country," said Merson. She recognized the company just starting to dig into her case and had to hire a translator to help with the language barrier.
"I think she was just fascinated by Donald Trump, as many people are."
Yang came to the United States in 2003 and her English can be hard to understand, according to people who know her from Palm Beach community, and who says racism and the language barrier can help participate in the media coverage of Yang.
"She seemed like a good person, socially out and about," said Karyn Turk, a resident and conservative radio host from Palm Beach, who is married to one of the lawyers representing Yang.
Carol Brophy, who also appears in Yang's famous self-affair with Donald Trump, said she didn't know Yang, and said Yang "photo-bombed" her "moment" with the president.
One of Yang's other lawyers, Evan Turk, said: "The evidence shows that our client has been mistakenly accused in a way she might never come from."
"Her name, her reputation and her honor have been destroyed," Turk added.
The White House said in a statement that the president does not know Yang.
Yang wants to clear her name, says Merson, and is concerned about being associated with alleged sex trafficking. Force was arrested for seeking prostitution as a by-product of a major law enforcement investigation of alleged human trafficking on massage chairs. According to the local police, women were brought from China on a temporary work visa that believed they would have legitimate jobs.
"She's scared she's traumatized … she's in hiding," said Merson.
After the Miami Herald published his image with Trump, Mother Jones reported on his company, GY Investments, and the company's website, which appeared to promote opportunities to get close to President Trump at a price.
An archived and translated version of her now damaged website allows you to take pictures with President Trump and an opportunity to interact with the president, trade minister, and other political figures.
Merson said Yang is misunderstood and will be ready to tell his story soon. She said Yang was not contacted by any state or federal investigators and is not a member of Trump's Palm Beach Club, Mar-a-Lago. Some in Palm Beach, however, say Yang previously seemed to have that kind of access to the club that members have. The initiative fee for Mar-a-Lago is $ 200,000 and annual fees are $ 14,000.
Berndt Lembcke, CEO of Mar-a-Lago, said the club never commented on members or membership.
Kraft has refused to engage in any illegal activity and has claimed guilty.