Jia Bei Zhu, a 62-year-old Chinese national and owner of the infamous Reedley COVID/etc. testing lab, was arrested outside the lab Thursday.
And the story of the arrest is as astonishing as the story of the lab itself is troubling.
Zhu – he has numerous other aliases, some of which may have been used in prior media reports – was nabbed by agents of the Food and Drug Administration’s enforcement arm, guns drawn and in full arrest mode, the moment he stepped out of his car in front of the former lab site.
He has been charged – so far – with misbranding medical devices and making false statements. He was set to be arraigned in federal this afternoon but is being held until at least Tuesday to allow him time to find an attorney.
The lab was discovered early this year and raided in March by the city and state and federal health agencies. Inside they found nearly 1,000 dead and dying mice, tens of thousands of COVID and pregnancy test kits, various biological material like blood and tissues samples, and vials and containers marked to indicate they contained other pathogens, including malaria and HIV.
At the time, someone identifying himself as the owner said the lab was not really a lab but a temporary storage facility after a separate firm was forced to move. It is now known Zhu was in charge of both firms.
The lab was cleared out, the mice destroyed, and the pathogens safely disposed of – what was not so simple was figuring out who owned the facility, in part because Zhu has numerous aliases and seems to have a track record of medical device fraud stretching from Clovis to Canada.
Since March, various government agencies have been looking into the situation and Zhu in particular and only days ago the FDA obtained a warrant – see in full at the bottom of this article – to arrest him. The problem was no one had any idea where he was.
His numerous identities, access to cash (it seems,) and penchant for flight from authorities had kept him hidden – quite possibly in China – for months. So hidden, that when a company called Sensiva won a $2.3 million judgement against him for selling them unlicensed COVID test kits earlier this year they were allowed by the court to place an ad in a Fresno service newspaper to satisfy legal notice service for payment on the judgement.
And then Zhu did something incredibly stupid – he filed claims against Fresno County and the City of Reedley (he wanted $50 million from the county, $30 million from Reedley) for destroying his valuable mice and other lab equipment. (technical note – you can’t just sue a public agency in California – you have to file a claim and if and when the claim is denied then you can file suit.) The claim can be found at the bottom of the story – it’s a hoot.
Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba and Code Enforcement Officer Jesalyn Harper – she was part of the team that first discovered the lab were discussing the absurd claim when a light bulb went off for them – let’s contact Zhu via email to see if he wants to come to Reedley to discuss “settling” the claim.
They did and Zhu – amazingly – said yes and Reedley and the FDA went into sting mode with Zieba agreeing to go to the lab to meet Zhu at the appointed time.
“It was a heart pounding moment for me,” said Zieba, describing the feeling as she stood outside the lab knowing there were armed officers hiding nearby to swoop in.
And swoop they did – guns drawn, shouting, bullet proof vests – the whole “that’s what it looks like on TV” kind of arrest.
“He had gone underground and then he filed the claim,” Zieba said. As to why he would even file a claim – let alone return to the scene fully aware of the on-going federal investigations (in part of the claim he complains about media “misinformation” so he was following the coverage of the incident.)
“It appears to be utter arrogance,” Zieba said.
And possibly not necessarily misplaced arrogance at that.
According to reports in The Epoch Times, Zhu fled Canada after losing nearly $300 million dollars – US -in civil suit judgements to a Colorado company called XY. It seems that before he got into the testing racket. Zhu concentrated on bovine reproduction, stealing XY’s patented technology that allows ranchers and farmers to choose the sex of the calf before it is born via artificial insemination.
In fact, when arrested, Zhu still had a British Columbian drivers license – it was expired, by the way.
His Canadian company, IND Diagnostics, was also hit hard by the Canadian government in 2013 when it banned it from selling, of course, home pregnancy tests kits and like. The government said it caught IND “importing unlicensed medical devices” into the country.
(A pattern seems to be emerging.)
And the company that owned the Reedley lab, Prestige Biotech, was also in the test kit business, as was its precursor, the Fresno-based Universal Meditech. Both companies, it appears, imported tests from China – possibly made by Ai De Biopharmaceutical and/or Ai De Diagnostics.
The Epoch Times story goes into the convoluted financial shenanigans of Zhu and various Chinese compatriots and companies in great detail.
What comes next in the Reedley saga is not clear. Other federal agencies are reportedly continuing their probes and while the first two charges against Zhu seem relatively minor – misbranding and lying – they are utterly secure in nature and enough to keep Zhu, um, “in town” to allow the other agencies further time to investigate and maybe even chat in person with the elusive Zhu.
One agency that may or may not bother to chat with Zhu is the CDC – Zieba said that particularly mistrusted branch of government has informed her that the mere possession of pathogens like HIV and malaria may or may not actually be illegal and that the CDC plans to send Zhu an “advice letter” about proper storage.
And you wonder why the pandemic was handled so badly…Criminal-complaint-against-Chinese-national-arrested-in-connection-with-Reedley-lab
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