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Man linked to Reedley lab discovery arrested on federal charges

A Reedley, Calif., warehouse where an illegal medical lab was discovered was shut down and materials inside were discarded.
A Reedley, Calif., warehouse where an illegal medical lab was discovered was shut down and materials inside were discarded.

FRESNO, Calif. – A man linked to the company that was found operating an unauthorized lab in Reedley has been arrested on federal charges.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said Thursday Jia Bei Zhu – who also used the aliases “Jesse Zhu,” “Qiang He” and “David He” – was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices and making false statements to federal agencies.

The U.S. attorney’s office says an investigation by local agencies that began in late 2022 eventually led to the unraveling of Zhu’s alleged operation – which was being carried out under the businesses Universal MediTech Inc. and Prestige BioTech Inc.

Universal MediTech Inc. had operated in Fresno since 2018 until a fire in 2020 and an eviction from its business offices in 2022. However, it first registered its business in Tulare in 2015. Last December, a code enforcement worker in the City of Reedley uncovered the company had been operating a medical lab and storing equipment without permission for months at the facility.

The arrest of Zhu, who is 62, is one of the first known arrests stemming from the investigations into the lab’s unauthorized operation in Reedley and the distribution of unauthorized medical materials. When the lab's existence reached the public, many were suspicious about the origins and its hazards.

“The disarray at the Reedley lab led to the glare of publicity [Zhu] was trying to avoid, and the ensuing investigation unraveled his efforts to circumvent the requirements that are designed to ensure that medical devices are safe and effective,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Thursday between 2020 and 2023, Zhu and others allegedly “manufactured, imported, sold and distributed hundreds of thousands” of test kits in the U.S. and China. The companies used in the operation did not have the required authorization to manufacture and distribute the test kits, the U.S. attorney’s offices said.

When asked about the manufacturing and distribution of the unauthorized medical materials, Zhu, a Chinese citizen who formerly lived in Clovis, allegedly made false statements to the Food and Drug Administration.

“Providing materially false information to FDA inspectors regarding medical device manufacturing and distribution impedes the agency’s ability to protect public health, especially when those false statements relate to unauthorized and misbranded COVID-19 tests,” said Robert M. Iwanicki, special agent in charge from the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Earlier this fall, the health department cleared the Reedley warehouse where the company’s materials were stored, which included pregnancy tests and COVID-19 tests.

Local, state and federal agencies uncovered a number of infectious diseases and hazardous chemicals were stored inside the facility, including COVID-19, malaria, HIV and hepatitis. The Fresno County Department of Public Health said it took roughly 76 days and 14 agencies to clear hazardous conditions – including euthanizing hundreds of lab mice found in distress.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health was in communication with representatives of both Universal Meditech and Prestige Biotech throughout the investigation. Emails provided in court documents showed communication with “David He,” one of the aliases the U.S. attorney’s office says was used by Zhu.

Zhu faces three years in prison if he is convicted of misbranding the medical devices and five years in prison for allegedly making false statements.

Zhu’s arrest came days after Universal MediTech Inc. filed a lawsuit totaling $80 million against Fresno County and the City of Reedley over lost assets after local agencies seized the company’s laboratory materials.

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig defended the county’s actions, saying he believes proper actions were followed to clear the lab’s hazards.

“I believe that the county and city followed the law and also gave adequate due process to the owners,” Magsig said.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is KVPR's News Director. Prior to joining the station's news department in 2022, he was a reporter for PBS NewsHour and The Fresno Bee.