LEXINGTON, Kentucky: A Kentucky court on Tuesday (Jun 4) convicted the American at the centre of Singapore’s HIV registry leak of trying to extort the Singapore government by threatening to release stolen registry data more widely.
The 12-person jury returned guilty verdicts on three counts against Mikhy Farrera Brochez, 34, for transferring the registry’s data to Kentucky and emailing online links to try to force Singapore’s government into freeing his jailed husband and closing the registry.
“When you have an issue with something the government has done, there are right ways and a wrong way” to address it, Assistant US attorney Dmitry Slavin said. "He chose extortion."
Brochez in testimony argued he was a whistleblower who was trying to seeking to close down a prejudicial and security-compromised registry.
Brochez was found guilty on several counts including transmitting threats for extortion and illegally transferring the identification of another person. He will be sentenced in September. His attorney, Adele Brown, said he may serve between 18 to 24 months in jail.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced on Jan 28 that the Winchester resident leaked the names and addresses of 5,400 HIV-positive Singaporeans and 8,800 foreigners.
Prosecutors said he asked his mother in Winchester, Kentucky to upload the documents in 2016, and retrieved them in 2018. Data was also found on several phones and computers, FBI agents said. He uploaded the sensitive data to a Google drive from which he sent links to government officials and media.
READ: Seized syringe was for patients' insulin, claims doctor accused of selling illegal drug injections
Brown acknowledged in closing arguments that it made little sense for her client to threaten to publicly disclose a registry he opposed. But she argued he didn’t intend to commit a crime, but was instead "trying to get justice".
A day earlier, Dr Vernon Lee, the health ministry’s director of communicable diseases, testified that the leak caused widespread anxiety in Singapore, with many fearing they could lose jobs or face discrimination.
Dr Lee argued the registry is only used for public health purposes. But Brochez said it was not secure and contained unnecessary information prone to misuse of discrimination against the HIV-positive.
Brochez, who lived in Singapore for 10 years from 2008 and worked as a lecturer, admitted Monday to using degrees he fabricating. Authorities have said he forged a doctorate in psychology from the University of Paris and other credentials.
Brochez was jailed in 2017 on fraud-related charges in connection with falsifying HIV-tests for employment.
During the two-day trial, Brochez said he had a copy of the database as early as 2012, and was ignored when he tried to alert authorities of the breach.
His partner, Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang, had access to the HIV registry as the former head of a National Public Health Unit. Ler was sentenced to two years' jail in November last year in connection with the case.
Brochez said he was raped and tortured in prison before being deported in 2018 to Kentucky, and was determined to seek redress. Singapore authorities have refuted these allegations.
Brown said her client tried reaching out to a member of Congress, the media and filing a complaint with the FBI, which ultimately led to his arrest.
FBI agents testified that they interviewed him but told him they had no jurisdiction over Singapore. As more information came to light, the FBI sent Kentucky State Police to arrest him in Jackson County, where he was found hiding in a barn.
Brochez has been in Fayette County jail since. His attorney said he may appeal.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health spokesperson declined to comment after the verdict.