LA County Sheriff pulls out from county’s mandated testing program after FBI warns cops DNA will be shared with China

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LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA – Following a shocking warning from the FBI confirming an exclusive report by Law Enforcement Today, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department advised county supervisors that the department will no longer participate in COVID-19 registering or testing with Fulgent Genetics, due to the fact that DNA data “will likely be shared with the Republic of China.”

Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)
Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Alex Villanueva wrote that the decision came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested a briefing with Los Angeles County leaders to share “very concerning information” about Fulgent Genetics.

Law Enforcement Today (LET) reported on October 18, 2021, about L.A. County mandating that first responders register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, an international technology company with ties to China, with the required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

Sheriff Villanueva wrote in the letter exclusively obtained by LET:

“On November 24, 2021, I was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator, who shared with me the FBI’s need to brief Los Angeles County leaders as to the ‘very concerning information’ they learned regarding the COVID-19 testing of County employees by Fulgent.”

Sheriff Villanueva said he attended the briefing on November 26, at the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, where he met with Los Angeles County Council Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva and Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport.

He said each county supervisor had been invited to the briefing, as was the head of the Department of Public Health.

The purpose of the meeting was for the FBI to inform County leaders of the “serious risk” associated with permitting Fulgent Genetics to conduct the Covid-19 testing of County employees, something county officials have mandated of all first responders.

Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)
Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)

The Sheriff wrote:

“I was shocked to learn Fulgent had strong ties with BGI, WuXi, and Huawei Technology, all of which are linked to the Chinese Academy of Medical Science, The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) State Council and are under the control of the PRC.

“I was even more shocked to learn Fulgent made no attempt to disguise the fact they will use genetic information obtained in future studies.

On the Fulgent public website, the following statement can easily be found, ‘I also give permission for my specimen and clinical information to be used in de-identified studies at Fulgent and for publication, if appropriate.’”

The letter also raised concerns over the 2017 China Cyber-Security Law, which makes it legal for PRC to seize any data stored in China or stored outside China by any organization with a location inside China.

Sheriff Villanueva mentioned a New York Times article published in October reporting on Chinese companies collecting genetic data from around the world so the PRC could develop the world’s largest bio-database.

In the letter, Sheriff Villanueva told the supervisors he was “deeply concerned” by the vetting failure on the part of the county:

“I am deeply concerned as to the vetting process which either failed to discover this, or discovered it, but chose to ignore it. A simple internet search would have uncovered all of the above facts.

On or about October 19, 2021, our department reached out to the County’s Department of Human Resources liaison of Fulgent, Mr. Ben Kempner, to ask him to respond to the questions in the (LET) news article, ‘L.A. first responders ordered to turn over personal and genetic data to China-linked company or face firing,’ but we were provided no response.

“I am equally concerned by the inclusion of an ‘equity survey’ to the mandatory Fulgent database registration process. How can one provide informed consent when participation is mandatory, under penalty of discipline?”

The article referred to in the letter was published by Law Enforcement Today on October 18 in an exclusive interview, reporting that L.A. County was mandating that employees register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, with a required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

Hilda Solis, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, issued an executive order on Aug. 4 requiring the county’s 110,000 employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 .

First responders, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are being required to upload their medical records and personal information into a Fulgent app used by the County to track employee compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

A Sheriff’s department source told LET at the time:

“There is California law that says your genetic information is confidential and personal to you and cannot be released without your consent. And we are being told, ‘You shall give consent.” How is that legal? You can’t tell me that I have to give consent to something that I don’t.”

The source, who requested anonymity over concerns of reprisal, continued:

“When you start reading through the fine print of the survey, our attorneys have discovered that not only are you granting them (Fulgent Genetics, Inc.) access to use and distribute our genetic data however they see fit, but it also gives them access to our financial information, our personal identifying information including our social security number.”

“It clearly says in the fine print that we give them permission to disseminate it, store it, and otherwise utilize (the data) anyhow they see fit, even in foreign countries.”

Sheriff Villanueva said the county’s actions that placed deputies and other personnel’s personal and genetic information at risk for foreign release will have long-lasting consequences:

“Entering a no-bid contract with Fulgent Genetics and allowing them to have DNA data obtained from mandatory COVID-19 testing, for unknown purposes, has shattered all confidence my personnel have in this entire process under the County mandate.

“My personnel have long suspected this information was being used in an unnecessary manner due to a rushed mandate that we now know will have long-term unintended consequences that will not be fully known for some time.”

Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)
Letter sent to LA County supervisors by Sheriff Alex Villanueva (LASD Source)

The Sheriff said he expects the County to withhold any further discipline against personnel for refusing to cooperate with the mandate and take corrective action:

“The FBI felt strongly enough regarding Fulgent being used to test County personnel that they had an emergency briefing to disclose their concerns. I trust you (the Board) will take steps to immediately assess and mitigate any further risk before any personnel are disciplined under the mandate for refusing to subject their information to the Fulgent system.

“The Board of Supervisors needs to determine the risk to the County as a while to correct this issue, as well as inform the collective bargaining units of this new information in order for us to move forward in light of this information.”

After LET published the exclusive report on Fulgent in October, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), one of the largest unions representing over 8,000 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in L.A. County, accused LET of being “tabloid journalism.”

In a letter to ALADS members, the union wrote:

“You may be aware of an article circulating regarding the vaccine mandate. The news outlet didn’t do their homework on this piece and the article is full of misinformation, and quite frankly, many aspects are not factual.”

In the letter, ALADS told their members that the information collected by Fulgent was “protected” by quoting Fulgent Genetics’ Confidentiality, Privacy, and Security clause in the County’s master agreement:

“The samples we receive for COVID-19 testing are only processed for RNA extraction and RT-PCR for viral RNA detection or viral strain/variant identification. No DNA is extracted.

“Samples are discarded after the clinical reports are issued … As a clinical laboratory, all of our patient records are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva - Screenshot courtesy of Forbes on YouTube
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva – Screenshot courtesy of Forbes on YouTube

ALADS’ attempts to convince members their information was secure and claims the LET article was “counterproductive” was ineffective, and  the union sent another letter dated October 21, to members entitled, “ALADS demands changes to Fulgent’s information gathering process.”

The letter confirmed the information in the LET article, which they originally called “tabloid journalism.” In the letter, ALADS listed three demands made to Fulgent Genetics:

  1. An update to Fulgent’s website to provide our members with the detailed privacy policy
  2. An explanation to our members as to the circumstances under which sharing of their information is required
  3. An update to Fulgent’s system so that members who have already registered will see any modifications to the privacy policy

The disclosures in the LET articles and the briefing by the FBI have resulted in Sheriff Villanueva informing the County that the Sheriff’s Department will seek other avenues for testing:

“The Department will remove itself from working with Fulgent and continue with our own proprietary registration system.

“The Department will continue to work with properly vetted testing companies with no association to Fulgent.”

In another shocking development, the same Sheriff’s Department source who aided LET in breaking the Fulgent story claims the County released personal identifiable information to Fulgent of personnel who did not register with the system from their human resources department records.

The source told LET:

“The County made it clear they already handed over PII (Personal identifiable information) to Fulgent even if we never registered. They used County HR info on file.

“They released that info to a third-party company (Fulgent) with direct ties to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).”

Law Enforcement Today will be investigating those claims as well as following up on developments in the days to come.

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