Complaint from Prominent Election Denier, Gregg Phillips, Led to Arrest of Election Tech CEO, Eugene Yu

Complaint from Prominent Election Denier, Gregg Phillips, Led to Arrest of Election Tech CEO, Eugene Yu

True the Vote, the Texas-based non-profit that’s dedicated itself to denying the validity of the 2020 election and spreading conspiracy theories about voter fraud, was directly involved in the arrest of the CEO of a small election software company earlier this month. A complaint from Gregg Phillips, a True the Vote board member, first spurred the LA County District Attorney’s office to investigate the company, Konnech.

The DA’s office initially claimed that True the Vote and Phillips played no role in its investigation, however the office recanted that claim in an email to Gizmodo sent on Thursday. From LA County District Attorney’s office spokesperson, Matthew Krasnowski:

Our Public Integrity Division (PID) routinely accepts complaints from the public. Often times, these complaints are made by political opponents of the accused. With that in mind, if a crime is alleged we have a responsibility to conduct an independent investigation. Greg Phillips’ [sic] report to PID was the first step in a thorough independent and still ongoing investigation which ultimately led to the arrest and charging of Mr. Yu. We initially indicated that Mr. Phillips played no role in the investigation. While we performed an independent investigation apart from Greg Philips [sic], his report to us did in fact result in us initiating our investigation.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, Konnech CEO Eugene Yu was arrested earlier this month. He has been charged with two felonies: conspiracy to commit a crime and grand theft by embezzlement of public funds, according to a court filing from LA County prosecutors, shared with Gizmodo on Thursday.

Konnech, which is based in Michigan and has about 20 employees, signed a contract with LA County in 2019 to provide the municipality with some election staffing, scheduling, and management services through its PollChief software. As a part of that contract, the company agreed that only “staff who are based in the United States and are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States shall have access to any County data, including personally identifiable information.”

But, in violation of that contract clause, some information about poll workers was sent to third-party contractors based in China, who were helping to troubleshoot and develop PollChief, according to the prosecutor’s filing. The document cites internal company communications obtained via search warrant earlier in October. For instance, an email from project manager Luis Nabergoi sent the same day of Yu’s arrest, which said Konnech was “moving to a new stage in the company maturity and we need to ensure the security privacy and confidentiality or [sic] our client data.”

Both of the charges against Yu stem from the allegations of contract violation: Conspiracy because the CEO allegedly knew about the contract breach, and embezzlement because the company accepted money from the county under false pretenses (i.e. that it would not break the contract). Konnech did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

At one point, the company had 32 clients in North America, according to its website, including the City of Detroit and Dekalb County, Georgia. Since Yu’s arrest, Detroit and two counties have ended their contracts with Konnech. However, Dekalb and LA counties have opted to keep their contracts going through the upcoming midterm elections, according to a report from The New York Times.

Critically, even if poll worker data was shared with two sub-contractors in China, there is no evidence of any identity theft resulting from that. Further, whether or not election worker information was shared has no bearing on election results, vote totals, or anything else which would relate to True the Vote’s unfounded, voter fraud conspiracy theories.

True the Vote has proudly taken credit for its roll in Yu’s arrest. And though election deniers are likely to hold onto the case against Konnech as evidence of their views, the allegations against the company and its CEO have nothing to do with election outcomes.

And without the dogged targeting of Konnech by True the Vote, it’s unclear if the issue of data management would’ve resulted in such legal proceedings at all. As the NYT pointed out, “it is rare for an executive to face criminal charges for potentially mishandling data.”

Yu is scheduled to be arraigned Friday. If convicted of the two felony charges, the executive could face a total of eight years in prison.

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