Arrest made in breach of L.A. County election worker data
Los Angeles County prosecutors have accused the chief executive of a small Michigan software company of compromising the personal information of hundreds of county elections employees.
Eugene Yu, 51, was arrested early Tuesday just outside Lansing, Mich., after prosecutors alleged he improperly stored the information on servers in China, according to Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón. Yu, who is the chief executive officer of a company named Konnech, is expected to be extradited to Los Angeles in the coming days, Gascón said.
Los Angeles County awarded Konnech a contract in 2020 to store employee payroll and scheduling data using its PollChief software, according to Gascón. Under the five-year contract valued at nearly $3 million, Konnech was not supposed to store information outside the U.S., Gascón said.
“Konnech allegedly violated its contract by storing critical information that the workers provided on servers in China,” Gascón said. “We intend to hold all those responsible for this breach accountable.”
It did not appear any of the information had been sold, and Gascón said Yu’s alleged actions had not compromised an election’s integrity.
Prosecutors learned of the data breach this year through a “separate investigation” undertaken by the district attorney’s office, according to Gascón. He would not say what the other investigation was or exactly when his office became aware of the breach.
In a statement, L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan said he did not learn of the the district attorney’s office’s actions until this morning. A spokesman for the registrar did not respond to questions about the county’s contract with Konnech or a request for a copy of the agreement.
“Storage of data outside the United States is a violation of County information security provisions and the strict provisions of the contract between the vendor and the County of Los Angeles,” Logan said in a statement. “The security and privacy of data and personally identifiable information of election workers is at the core of our mission. My office will fully cooperate with the District Attorney’s office as they conduct their investigation.”
Konnech had become the target of unfounded conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election recently, according to a New York Times report published Monday. Election deniers have claimed that the small company has ties to the Chinese Communist Party and gave the Chinese government access to the personal information of 2 million poll workers, according to the report, which said there was no evidence of those claims.
Konnech employees began receiving death threats and Yu denied all allegations of wrongdoing in an interview with the New York Times. He told the newspaper all of its information was stored on American servers. Yu, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1986, went into hiding because of threats to his family, according to the report.
Many of the allegations about poll worker information made against Konnech came from a group called True the Vote, a nonprofit founded by Catherine Engelbrecht, a prominent right-wing figure who believes the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Konnech has sued True the Vote for defamation.
Late Tuesday, a New Jersey-based public relations firm issued a statement to The Times on behalf of Konnech. The statement referred to Yu’s arrest as a “wrongful detention” and suggested the prosecution was somehow connected to the True the Vote lawsuit. The person who issued the statement did not immediately respond to follow-up questions.
“Any L.A. County poll worker data that Konnech may have possessed was provided to it by L.A. County, and therefore could not have been ‘stolen’ as suggested,” the statement read.
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