Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the American fraudster at the centre of a massive HIV data leak in Singapore, was charged by the United States Department of Justice on Friday (22 February).
The 34-year-old was charged with unlawful transfer of stolen identification documents and possession with intent to distribute these documents in violation of federal law, according to the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky.
A statement on the office’s webpage said that Brochez was charged via a criminal complaint following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Federal law enforcement has accused him of possessing stolen identification documents including medical records of 14,200 people living with HIV.
The statement said, “The criminal complaint alleges that Brochez illegally possessed and intended to distribute data containing sensitive medical and other identifying information.
“While living in the Eastern District of Kentucky, Brochez sent links to the data from his e-mail account to several news outlets. He also sent e-mails to several government officials in Singapore containing links to the data.”
Brochez’s next court appearance is scheduled for 27 February in Lexington, Kentucky, the statement said.
S’pore police, MOH aware of Brochez’s charge
On Saturday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Police Force released a joint statement on Brochez’s court charge, adding that they had also filed civil proceedings in the US courts .
They said, “The Singapore authorities are aware that Brochez has been arrested and charged in court in Kentucky. The Singapore authorities have been working closely with our US counterparts.
“Concurrently, we have also filed civil proceedings in the US courts, and are doing everything we can to protect the interests of the individuals affected.”
Background of HIV registry leak
Brochez was named by the Ministry of Health last month as the culprit behind a massive HIV registry leak containing confidential data of 14,200 HIV-positive individuals and 2,400 others who were identified through contact tracing.
The leaked data included the affected individuals’ names, identification numbers, contact details, HIV test results, and related medical information.
He was then in a relationship with Ler Teck Siang, 37, the former head of the MOH’s National Public Health Unit who oversaw the HIV registry. According to the SCMP, the couple got to know each other on a gay dating site and met for the first time in Hong Kong in 2007.
In June 2016, Ler was charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for “failing to retain possession of a thumb drive” containing data from the HIV registry. His OSA charge has been stood down pending his appeal.
Brochez, however, was only issued a stern warning for his OSA offence as it was deemed that he would likely receive only a fine or at most a few weeks’ jail for it, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed in Parliament on 12 February.
Repeatedly denied involvement in HIV leak
The American has repeatedly denied his involvement in the leak and detailed his allegations against the authorities in a lengthy interview with Vice News published a day after.
A series of posts repeating these claims was also put up on Facebook on the same day by a user claiming to be “Mikhy Brochez”, prompting the authorities to issue statements rebutting what they termed as “baseless claims” made by a “pathological liar”.
The Facebook profile was removed by the social media giant less than 24 hours later for violating its user policies.
Among Brochez’s allegations included being sexually assaulted in prison and contracting HIV while serving a 28-month sentence in Singapore for fraud and drug-related offences. He was deported from Singapore in April last year.
Brochez also claimed that Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist who treated him in prison, had given him a list of HIV-positive inmates and originally told him that he did not have HIV. Dr Leong has denied the allegations.
On 17 February, the Singapore Prison Services said that it has filed a police report over an email sent by Brochez containing the confidential data of 13 HIV-positive individuals.
The email was sent a day before to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam as well as media organisations, including Yahoo News Singapore, Singapore broadsheet The Straits Times, US-based Lexington Herald Leader and Vice News.
It remains unclear whether the 13 individuals were part of those affected in the massive data leak.