On March 3, an illegal bio lab was discovered in a believed-to-be vacant building in Reedley, California in Fresno County. City code enforcement stumbled upon the building in December 2022 when they discovered a garden hose running up into the building through a hole in the wall. In March, they obtained a warrant to inspect the property, and in April, the Fresno County Department of Public Health ordered an inspection of the facility.
Investigators inspected the building that contained the lab in July and found a room used to make COVID-19 tests and pregnancy tests. They also found over 35 freezers and refrigeration units that contained “thousands of bodily fluids, serums, tissues, and other medical items.”
According to the Mid Valley Times:
According to a declaration from Humero Prado, Assistant Director of Fresno County Public Health, which was filed in superior court, investigators discovered that one room of the warehouse was used to produce COVID-19 and pregnancy tests. In other rooms, investigators found blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples. They also found thousands of vials that contained unlabeled fluids.
Over 900 mice were located at the facility. Court documents identify Wang Zhaolin as the Prestige representative onsite during the investigation. Zhaolin informed the investigators that “these mice were genetically engineered to catch and carry the COVID-19 virus.” Court documents describe the conditions under which the mice were housed as “inhumane.”
From May 2 through May 4, the CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins inspected 850 I Street. Court documents confirm the CDC found potentially infectious agents at the location. These included both bacterial and viral agents, including chlamydia, E. Coli, streptococcus pneumonia, hepatitis B and C, herpes 1 and 5 and rubella. The CDC also found samples of malaria.
That phone call launched an investigation that would eventually involve the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FBI, the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the State Department of Health, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and FCDPH, and would lead to the discovery of a lab that had been operating illegally in the city since October 2022. For FCDPH Director David Luchini and FCDPH Assistant Director Joe Prado, the amount of biological materials and chemicals – over 800 – found at the lab was a first.
The company alleged to be running the lab, Prestige BioTech, is based out of Nevada and is the successor to Universal Meditech, Inc (UMI). In Dec. 2022, the FDA announced a recall over 56,000 “Skippack Medical Lab” Rapid Anti-Gen COVID-19 tests distributed by UMI to California and Texas.
Another representative of Prestige BioTech, David He, dodged questions regarding accountability and ownership of the company and whether or not they were properly disposing of the hundreds of dead mice. Prestige would not confirm if the biologics contained in the lab were theirs.
Prestige BioTech was able to operate 35 freezers and refrigeration devices without anyone questioning the electrical draw that would be required for a building that “was supposed to be vacant,” according to City Manager Nicole Zieba. When investigators entered the building on July 5th, however, the power to the refrigerators and freezers “was lost” but the biological samples were still frozen.
Court documents show that “48 containers (appx. 44 gallons per container) full of biological material and medical waste” were removed on one day followed by another 31 the next day for a total of 75 containers full of biological material and medical waste.
According to court documents reported by NBC News, court documents claim “the other addresses provided for identified authorized agents were either empty offices or addresses in China that could not be verified.”