Villanueva told the board of supervisors that he attended a Nov. 26, 2021, briefing at the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, along with the county’s top attorney and chief executive, with all supervisors and the head of the Department of Public Health invited.
“The FBI stated the purpose of the meeting was to inform County leaders of the serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to conduct COVID-19 testing of County employees,” Villanueva said.
The sheriff said he was “shocked to learn” that Fulgent has alleged ties to several Chinese technology and genomics companies that are “linked to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) State Council and are under the control of the PRC.”
He further alleged that Fulgent uses genetic information obtained from COVID-19 testing patients in studies, and raised concerns that data potentially stored by Fulgent outside the U.S. could be accessed by the Chinese government.
“I am deeply concerned as to the vetting process which either failed to discover this or discovered it but chose to ignore it. A simple Internet search would have covered all the above facts,” Villanueva wrote.
He stated that the FBI “felt strongly enough regarding Fulgent being used to test County personnel that they held an emergency briefing to disclose their concerns.”
“The Department will remove itself from working with Fulgent,” Villanueva said.
L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told the Los Angeles Times that she was invited to the FBI briefing but could not attend because she was out of town for Thanksgiving.
“From what I heard about the briefing, there was no evidence at all, zero, that Fulgent had breached anything or had any relationship with the Chinese government that was harmful to the information that might be present in the samples that they’re testing,” she said.
On Aug. 4, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors mandated that all County employees provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by Oct. 1 or face termination. Melugin reported that the county awarded a no-bid contract to Fulgent to provide testing and registration services, and that all county employees, more than 100,000 people, were required to register their vaccination status with Fulgent.
Melugin said that some employees reached out to him and were “furious” with a disclaimer from Fulgent Genetics explaining that the company may “store, process and transmit personal information in locations around the world,” including in places with “less protective” data protection laws.
“If you do not want your information transferred to or processed or maintained outside of the country or jurisdiction where you are located, you should not use our Services,” the Fulgent disclaimer reads, according to a screenshot shared by Melugin.