Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva notified the LA County Board of Supervisors that he will not work with genetics firm Fulgent to conduct mandatory testing and registration of COVID-19 in first responders after a recent briefing from the FBI where he was warned of the firm’s links to China.
In a letter addressed to the supervisors, Sheriff Villanueva stated he was contacted by the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator regarding the significant risks posed by Fulgent Genetics Corporation. The FBI contacted Villanueva with the express purpose of meeting with other leaders within LA County to share information on the ties between Fulgent and China.
Fulgent has “strong ties with BGI, WuXi, and Huawei, all of which are linked to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Council, and are under the control of the PRC.”
The letter went on to describe Villanueva’s shock that Fulgent will use the genetic information obtained via the mandatory testing and registration of LA County’s law enforcement for future studies. Statements on the Fulgent website read, “I also give permission for my specimen and clinical information to be used in de-identified studies at Fulgent and for publication if appropriate.”
China’s 2017 cyber-security law allows the PRC to seize any data stored within China, or stored outside of China by any entity with a presence in China.
Villanueva uses his letter to call-out the Board of Supervisors for a lack of vetting. Villanueva further notes that LA first responders contacted Fulgent liaison Ben Kempner to ask him why they were being ordered to turn over personal and genetic data to the China-linked company or face firing. Kempner refused to respond to the question.
After the FBI held their emergency briefing with LA county leaders, Villanueva stated that the lack of oversight by the Board of Supervisors has “shattered all confidence my personnel have in this entire process under the County [COVID-19 vaccination and testing] mandate.”
Villanueva ends the letter by stating that his department will remove itself from working with Fulgent to continue working on proprietary registration systems. LA County Sheriffs Department will continue to work with “properly vetted testing companies with no association to Fulgent.”