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Man Arrested in Investigation of Secret Chinese Biolab in California

Man Arrested in Investigation of Secret Chinese Biolab in California

Jia Bei "Jesse" Zhu, 62, who was arrested in connection with an investigation into a black market Chinese biolab operating in a warehouse in Reedley, California. (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice)

Lear Zhou

Lear Zhou

10/20/2023

Updated: 10/20/2023

Jia Bei “Jesse” Zhu was arrested Oct. 19 in California amid an investigation into a black market Chinese biolab operating in a warehouse in Reedley, about 25 miles southeast of Fresno.
Mr. Zhu was charged with manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices and making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The arrest was made around noon by FDA agents, according to Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba, just hours after a report was published by The Epoch Times that connected Jia Bei Zhu to the secret Chinese biolab.
The Epoch Times was unable to confirm Mr. Zhu’s whereabouts during the two-month investigation into the lab.
A complaint filed Oct. 18 shows Mr. Zhu, 62, came to the United States from China under the alias Qiang “David” He in 2021. Mr. Zhu identified himself as Qiang He multiple times to officials from various agencies and claimed he could speak on behalf of both Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI) and Prestige Biotech Inc. (PBI).
However, the fingerprints from Qiang He matched the fingerprints obtained from Mr. Zhu when he came into the country seven times from 2003 through 2008.
A map illustration shows the location of the suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Nathan Su/The Epoch Times, Shutterstock)

A map illustration shows the location of the suspected biolab in Reedley, Calif. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Nathan Su/The Epoch Times, Shutterstock)

In a Sept. 13 search of the Reedley warehouse, which is owned by PBI, FDA agents found a photocopy of a Canada driver’s license issued in 2014 to “Jia Bei Zhu.” The photograph on the license matched the person who identified himself as Qiang “David” He on agents’ body camera footage taken during a May 2023 inspection.
“As part of his scheme, the defendant changed his name, the names of his companies, and their locations,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in an announcement.
Mr. Zhu faces a maximum of three years in prison for the misbranding charge and five more years for the false statements charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California.
According to court documents, between December 2020 and March 2023, Zhu and others allegedly manufactured, imported, sold, and distributed hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 and other test kits in the United States and China. They did so through the companies UMI and PBI without proper authorization.
UMI applied for emergency use authorizations for a COVID-19 antibody test kit and a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test kit in May 2020, but withdrew the former and the latter was denied in October 2020, according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint alleges that during the investigation, Mr. Zhu made several false statements to FDA officials, including using a false name and falsely representing the companies’ activities.
“Zhu was responsible for the operations of UMI and PBI, and was aware of the FDA’s rules and regulations for COVID-19 IVD test kits and other types of IVD test kits,” the complaint reads.
Referred to 16 times in the complaint as “UMI Employee Three,” former UMI general manager Karekin Khatchadoorian told FBI agents in a Dec. 21, 2022 interview that although Mr. Zhu’s title was only “Tech Office Consultant,” he ran most of the company’s operations.
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Lear Zhou

Lear Zhou

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Lear is a reporter based in San Francisco covering Northern California news.

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