The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged a Chinese national on Thursday for crimes related to operating an illegal biolab in California, according to a press release.
Jia Bei Zhu, 62, was arrested for “manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices in violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and for making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” according to a DOJ press release. Between April and June 2023, officials in Fresno, California, discovered at least 20 potentially infectious agents, such as HIV and Malaria, as well as mice genetically engineered to carry COVID-19, at an “unlicensed” laboratory in Reedley, California, operated by Prestige Biotech Inc. (PBI), the successor of defunct Universal Meditech Inc. (UMI), Fresno County court records state.
“During the investigation, Zhu made several false statements to FDA officials, including that his name was Qiang ‘David’ He; that he was hired by UMI as a COVID-19 consultant in 2021; that he was hired by PBI just a couple of weeks ago to communicate with government agencies and dispose of property at the warehouse as requested by those agencies; that he did not know anything about the manufacturing or distribution histories for UMI or PBI; and that he knew nothing about an Amazon webpage showing PBI‑branded pregnancy test kits for sale or a shipment of 47,500 pregnancy test kits from China to UMI at an address in Las Vegas,” the DOJ press release states.
Between at least December 2020 and March 2023, Zhu and others used UMI and PBI to manufacture, sell and distribute “hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 IVD test kits, in addition to IVD test kits for HIV, pregnancy, clinical urinalysis and other conditions, throughout the United States,” without obtaining authorizations to manufacture and distribute test kits, according to a criminal complaint filed in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of California.
“If convicted, Zhu faces a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison for the misbranding of medical devices charge, and five more years in prison for the false statements charge,” according to the DOJ press release.
In August 2023, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported that certain PBI and UMI executives appear to share the same names and addresses with one of the lab’s pharmaceutical suppliers located in Qingdao, China.
The DCNF found business filings showing that UMI’s CEO and PBI’s managing member, Wang Zhaoyan, has the same name as the executive director of Ai De Biopharmaceutical in Qingdao. Likewise, PBI’s president, Yao Xiuqin, shares the same name with Ai De Biopharmaceutical’s supervisor, filings on Qixin.com reveal.
Furthermore, the DCNF reported that the address for PBI’s president Yao Xiuqin that PBI’s representative, “David He,” gave to investigators closely resembles the address for Ai De Diagnostic Co. Ltd in Qingdao.
In September, a City of Reedley official confirmed Ai De’s connection to the investigation during a phone call with the DCNF.
Zhu, UMI and PBI did not respond immediately to request for comment.
Philip Lenczycki on October 20, 2023