Court documents have revealed that a warehouse in downtown Reedley, California was discovered to be holding 35 refrigerators and freezers containing more than 2,100 gallons of biological material, medical waste, and infectious agents after a court ordered raid by enforcement officers following suspicion of code violations.
The facility has been described by some media outlets as a “mysterious Chinese bio-lab” because it was controlled by a company whose owner has a Chinese name.
Prominent coverage of the story came from NBC News on July 27, which said that both Fresno and federal authorities suspect the warehouse “was home to an illegal, unlicensed laboratory.”
Fox News affiliate KMPH said the lab operated from October 2022.
NBC quoted Fresno County Public Health Department (FCPHD) Assistant Director Joe Prado as stating his division has been “evaluating and assessing the activities of an unlicensed laboratory.”
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Reporting by Reedley NBC affiliate KSEE on July 27 quoted City Manager Nicole Zieba as saying, “This is an unusual situation. I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Court documents show the story dates back as far as March 3 when Fresno officials inspected the unit “for building violations and found various chemicals being stored,” NBC stated.
Zieba told ABC30 Action News, “Our code enforcement officer really paying attention, driving down the street, sees something that looks out of place. Stops, knocks on the door, and lo and behold, we discover folks that are storing things, operating here at 850 I street, unlicensed, unpermitted.”
NBC continued that on March 16, a follow up inspection by Fresno health authorities “allegedly turned up medical devices thought to have been developed on-site, such as Covid and pregnancy tests.”
A July 20 court filing by the FCPHD reported by local media outlet KVPR told the court that when a seizure and cleanup warrant was executed between July 5 and 7, crews found “35 separate refrigerators and freezers” and removed 48 separate 44 gallon containers worth of “biological material, including blood, tissue, serum, bodily fluid samples,” medical waste, “infectious agents,” and containers and equipment thought to be contaminated.
NBC added that inspectors also found “hundreds of mice” at the facility in April. One hundred seventy five rodents were found dead and an additional 773 were euthanized.
Prado told ABC, “What we heard from the business owner was that they were doing some type of testing with those mice to see whether or not their Covid test kits were actually effective in detecting Covid.”
The outlet also paraphrased a June 6 letter from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which stated that the CDC had analyzed material removed at the time contained “at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis and herpes.”
Prado also told KSEE, “So there was over 800 different chemicals on site in different bottles of different acids. Unfortunately, a lot of these are being categorized under unknown chemicals.”
According to “an investigation,” NBC states the tenant of the facility was a company called Prestige BioTech, registered in Nevada and not licensed to operate in California.
“City officials spoke with Xiuquin Yao, who was identified as the company president, through emails included in the court documents,” the article wrote.
NBC continued, “Yao told officials that Prestige BioTech moved assets belonging to a defunct company, Universal Meditech Inc., to the Reedley warehouse from Fresno after UMI went under. Prestige Biotech was a creditor to UMI and identified as its successor, according to court documents.”
Court documents were quoted as stating that Prestige BioTech addresses “provided for identified authorized agents were either empty offices or addresses in China that could not be verified.”
KSEE also reported that Prestige’s officer “was not forthcoming with information” during the investigation.
Zieba was paraphrased by ABC as stating that “due to the lack of communication from the company to the health inspectors’ inquiries, they consider the building abandoned and plan to destroy the property.”
Prado told Fox, “Here at the public health department we operate our own lab so we’re very well versed in the legal requirements and how to maintain and control an infectious agent. And there was just a complete absence of those controls in place at the warehouse.”