LEXINGTON, Kentucky: A US judge has ordered the American accused of sharing the personal information of thousands of people from Singapore’s HIV registry to remain in jail while a grand jury considers whether to indict him on federal charges, which now include transmitting threats for purposes of extortion.
Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, 34, appeared at a federal court in Lexington, Kentucky, on Wednesday (Feb 27) in handcuffs and a yellow jail jumpsuit.
He was arrested and jailed late last week on charges of unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents and possession with intent to distribute them.
On Wednesday, the FBI filed two additional charges of transmitting threats for purposes of extortion and illegally transferring the identification of another person in connection with an unlawful activity. Those carry possible combined sentences of seven years in prison, and prosecutors could seek more.
US Magistrate Matthew Stinnett found probable cause to send the case to a federal grand jury, which could take several weeks or longer to decide whether to indict Brochez on the charges.
Brochez will remain in custody of US Marshals at the Fayette County Detention Centre, but his attorney said he may seek a hearing to fight the detention.
READ: The leaking of Singapore’s HIV registry records and the hunt for Mikhy Farrera Brochez: A timeline
Singapore has accused Brochez of leaking a database of 14,200 people who were infected with HIV. He worked as a lecturer before he was jailed for several drug and fraud-related offences in connection with falsifying an HIV test to get a work permit.
He was deported last year.
Upon hearing the prison time he could face in US federal prison, Brochez told the judge that “the United States government isn’t one to put a value on lives”, citing the nation’s wars.
He did not enter a plea but his attorney, Mr Jay Oakley, said his client maintains his innocence.
An FBI affidavit filed on Feb 22 said Brochez acknowledged that he had come “into possession of the database in Singapore” and brought it to the US and said he would hand over the database to the FBI if it could “convince the Government of Singapore to release his husband”, Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang.
If not, he said he “would release the database to the public”, according to the affidavit, which noted that he told the FBI he would "commit suicide" before he would turn over the database.
A second FBI complaint filed on Feb 27 said Brochez emailed links to what he said was HIV registry data to Singapore government agencies and others "with the intent to extort from them things of value. Namely, Brochez intended to obtain an investigation of crimes allegedly committed against him in Singapore, the end of the HIV registry, and the release of Siang from imprisonment".
The FBI has alleged that from June 2018 through to at least January 2019, Brochez, while living in Kentucky, had also emailed links from the medical database to several media outlets, including Alvinology, Mothership, the Straits Times and CNN.
During Wednesday’s hearing, magistrate Stinnett asked if either side had concerns about Brochez’s mental competency.
Mr Oakley said he did not, while assistant US attorney Dmitry Slavin said the government has “general concerns” but that he was competent to proceed with Wednesday’s hearing.
Brochez’s mother, Ms Teresa King, told the FBI that Brochez was living with her after he was released from Singapore prison and that her son was mentally ill.
She said she was "extremely afraid of him", according to the affidavit.
Brochez told the judge he had post-traumatic stress disorder from what he has endured. He has previously alleged he was raped in prison in Singapore, where he has claimed he contracted HIV, which the Singapore Government has denied.
Brochez is also facing trespassing charges in Clark County District Court in Winchester, Kentucky, after having been arrested in December for refusing to leave his mother's home. That case could be delayed while he is incarcerated, his attorney said.
Mr Oakley told reporters that Brochez was concerned about loved ones in Singapore. Dr Ler has been charged in Singapore with failing to take reasonable care of confidential information relating to HIV-positive patients.
Mr Oakley said he was not certain yet if Brochez could legally be extradited to Singapore to face charges.
“He’s an American citizen. I would say the odds are likely not,” he said.