(The Center Square) — Eugene Yu, founder and president of East Lansing-based election software-technology company Konnech, Inc., was arrested Wednesday in Michigan and is facing California charges related to collecting election workers’ personal data and storing it on servers housed in the Peoples Republic of China.
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is seeking Yu’s extradition from Michigan on charges Konnech violated its contract with Los Angeles County, which prohibits access of election workers’ personal information from citizens and permanent residents outside the United States.
Yu was arrested by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, with assistance by Michigan’s Ingham County and East Lansing law-enforcement agencies. During the arrest, hard drives and digital evidence were seized.
“I want to thank my prosecutors and investigators for their commitment to eliminating cyber intrusions against government entities and local businesses,” Gascón said in a statement. “Data breaches are an ongoing threat to our digital way of life. When we entrust a company to hold our confidential data, they must be willing and able to protect our personal identifying information from theft. Otherwise, we are all victims.”
Gascón added the impending charges against Yu are confined to the personal information of election workers collected by Konnech’s PollChief software. Any alleged wrongdoing would not have altered the tabulation of votes or any election results in any of the areas where Konnech maintains contracts for its software, he said.
PollChief software is used to manage election-worker payroll, assignments, and communications, according to Gascón.
Konnech was founded in the Michigan Ingham County community of Okemos in 1996, and is now headquartered in East Lansing. According to the company’s website, the company currently serves 32 clients, including Los Angeles County.
Konnech had planned to move its headquarters to Los Angeles but remained in Michigan after receiving approval last November for a taxpayer-funded investment of up to $306,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. with the promise of creating 51 high-paying jobs over a two-year period.
The MEDC named Konnech one of the group’s “success stories,” and noted the company was awarded a 2022 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award from Michigan Celebrates Small Business, a consortium that includes MEDC among its members.
John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, told The Center Square the charge against Yu reminds him of another Michigan incident involving Richard A. Short. He was awarded a $91.1 million “green jobs” state subsidy in March 2010.
As it turned out, Short was on parole for embezzlement and fraud charges, still owing $96,000 in court-ordered restitution. After his parole officer saw him receiving the funding on local television news and reporting Short in violation of his parole, the MEDC discovered he had submitted fraudulent information on his application.
“The MEDC call what they’re doing investing,” Mozena said. “But any legitimate investment advisor in the private sector would conduct due diligence or risk being fined, sued or end up in jail.”
In September, Yu filed a lawsuit against True the Vote, a nonprofit group investigating alleged election improprieties. He was granted an ex parte temporary restraining order after TTV claimed it had accessed the personal data of 1.8 million U.S. election workers from a China server owned by Konnech.
“Election integrity should not be a partisan issue, nor should media try to suppress all conversation about it in a way that benefits one party,” True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement. “We will continue to report evidence of threats to our election process and work with law enforcement to ensure our elections are a secure space for all American voters.”