Election Software Executive Arrested on Suspicion of Theft

The top executive of an elections technology company that has been the focus of attention among election deniers was arrested by Los Angeles County officials in connection with an investigation into the possible theft of personal information about poll workers, the county said on Tuesday.

Eugene Yu, the founder and chief executive of Konnech, the technology company, was taken into custody on suspicion of theft, the Los Angeles County district attorney, George Gascón, said in a statement.

Konnech, which is based in Michigan, develops software to manage election logistics, like scheduling poll workers. Los Angeles County is among its customers.

The company has been accused by groups challenging the validity of the 2020 presidential election with storing information about poll workers on servers in China. The company has repeatedly denied keeping data outside the United States, including in recent statements to The New York Times.

Mr. Gascón’s office said its investigators had found data stored in China. Holding the data there would violate Konnech’s contract with the county.

The county released few other details about its investigation. But it said in its statement that the charges related only to data about poll workers — and that “the alleged conduct had no impact on the tabulation of votes and did not alter election results.”

“Data breaches are an ongoing threat to our digital way of life,” the district attorney’s office said in the statement. “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.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Konnech said that the company was trying to learn the details “of what we believe to be Mr. Yu’s wrongful detention,” and that it stood by statements it made in a lawsuit against election deniers who had accused the company of wrongdoing.

“Any L.A. County poll worker data that Konnech may have possessed was provided to it by L.A. County and therefore could not have been ‘stolen’ as suggested,” the spokesman said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said in an emailed statement that it had cause to believe that personal information on election workers was “criminally mishandled.” It was seeking to extradite Mr. Yu, who lives in Michigan, to Los Angeles.

Konnech came under scrutiny this year by several election deniers, including a founder of True the Vote, a nonprofit that says it is devoted to uncovering election fraud. True the Vote said its team had downloaded personal information on 1.8 million American poll workers from a server owned by Konnech and hosted in China. It said it obtained the data by using the server’s default password, which it said was “password,” according to online accounts from people who attended a conference about voter fraud where the claims were made. The group provided no evidence that it had downloaded the data, saying that it had given the information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The claims quickly spread online, with some advocates raising concerns about China’s influence on America’s election system.

Claims about Konnech reached Dekalb County in Georgia, which was close to signing a contract with the company. The county’s Republican Party chairwoman, Marci McCarthy, raised concerns during a public comment period at the county’s elections board meeting on Sept. 8, questioning where the company stored and secured its data.

Konnech rebutted the claims, telling The New York Times that it had records on fewer than 240,000 workers at the time and that it had detected no data breach. Konnech owned a subsidiary in China that developed and tested software. The company said programmers there always used “dummy” test data. The subsidiary was closed in 2021.

Last month, Konnech sued True the Vote and Catherine Engelbrecht, its founder, as well as Gregg Phillips, an election denier who often works with the group. Konnech claimed the group had engaged in defamation, theft and a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act — which made it illegal to access a computer without authorization — among other charges.

The judge in the case granted Konnech’s request for an emergency restraining order, which required True the Vote to disclose who had allegedly gained access to Konnech’s data. True the Vote released the name in a sealed court filing.

“The organization is profoundly grateful to the Los Angeles district attorney’s office for their thorough work and rapid action in this matter,” the group said in a statement.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office said it was unaware of True the Vote’s investigation and said it had no input on the county’s investigation.

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