LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man accused by the Singapore government of stealing a database of HIV patients has been jailed in the U.S. on federal charges of illegally possessing Singaporean identification documents.
Mikhy Farrera-Brochez of Winchester was briefly in federal court in Lexington on Wednesday. A federal grand jury will meet to decide if Brochez should be indicted on four U.S. charges related to the possession of the documents.
Last month, Singapore’s health ministry accused Brochez of stealing and leaking a pre-2013 database of 14,200 people who were infected with HIV. The ministry says Brochez worked in Singapore as a lecturer before he was jailed for several drug and fraud-related offenses and deported last year.
Brochez’s attorney, Jay Oakley, said Wednesday that Brochez is innocent of the charges.
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“The nature of the charges are that he has in his possession certain identifying government documents coming from Singapore and that he shouldn’t have in his possession,” Oakley said after the court hearing. “We’re going to prepare our defense and handle the charges as they need to be handled.”
Singapore’s health ministry said Brochez’s partner, who headed the ministry’s National Public Health Unit from March 2012 to May 2013, had access to the confidential information.
His partner is Ler Teck Siang, a Singaporean doctor who has been charged in Singapore for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information relating to HIV-positive patients. The charge is pending. Brochez refers to Siang as his husband. It is not clear what their official marital status is.
Brochez appeared in the Kentucky courtroom Wednesday in a yellow jumpsuit and handcuffs. Oakley said after the hearing that Brochez is concerned about the welfare of Siang, who remains in Singapore. Brochez told U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Stinnett on Wednesday that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to his treatment in jail in Singapore.
Brochez reached out to the FBI in January, claiming he had important information and was in danger of being kidnapped by the Singapore government, according to an FBI affidavit.
The affidavit said the FBI learned earlier this month from public reports that Brochez possessed a medical database maintained by the National Public Health Unit of Singapore. The data contains personal medical information for those who have tested positive for HIV.
“Brochez has personally reached out to several media outlets and revealed his possession of the … database,” the affidavit said.
Brochez also wrote on Facebook that he “will continue releasing this evidence until the (Singapore government) stops the HIV registry and releases my husband Dr. Ler Teck Siang from the unlawful imprisonment based on false charges,” the affidavit said.
One of the U.S. charges against Brochez accuses him of making threats to extort a thing of value, along with a charge that Brochez knew the documents were stolen.
The FBI began looking for Brochez in Kentucky earlier this month and located his mother on Feb. 21. His mother said Brochez was “mentally ill and she was extremely afraid of him” and she had kicked him out of the house.
Agents and state police tracked down Brochez later that day and took him into custody.