Reedley is a small city in California’s San Joaquin Valley, just east of Fresno. But a troubling discovery there in early March has recently come to light — and raises a number of questions. It began with a garden hose attached illegally to a warehouse near the center of town. The building was supposed to be vacant. When code enforcement officers from the city went to investigate, they discovered that it was in use and observed several code violations.
“It was pretty clear right off the bat that something was going on we didn’t have a business license for,” Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba said. “They didn’t have any city approvals; that building was supposed to be vacant.”
Zieba said the officers left the property because they did not have a warrant. The suspicious garden hose coupled with numerous building code violations led officers to declare the site unsafe. The city posted “Unsafe to Occupy” signs around the property and ordered individuals on site to leave. They then called the Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH).
That’s where things took a really strange turn:
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.
City and county officials were understandably shocked at what the investigation revealed.
“This is an unusual situation. I’ve been in government for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba.
“I’ve never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno,” said Assistant Director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health Joe Prado.
“Through their statements that they were doing some testing on laboratory mice that would help them support, developing the COVID test kits that they had on-site,” Prado said.
Health officials discovered nearly 1,000 lab mice, 200 of which were already dead.
Also found were thousands of vials, many of which contained biohazardous materials including human blood, and other unknown substances.
“A lot of these labels have been removed from bottles so there was only so much testing. We could do those chemicals,” Prado continued.
So, what was going on at this makeshift lab? And who was behind it?
According to multiple documents filed in Fresno Superior Court, in early fall of 2022, Nevada-based Prestige Biotech, Inc. moved equipment into the warehouse at 850 I Street and established a lab. Court documents state that Prestige was operating a lab in Fresno in 2022 but it was destroyed in a fire, which prompted the move to Reedley.
Reedley officials and personnel from CDPH and FCDPH executed a warrant on March 16 to inspect the warehouse at 850 I Street. 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.
An onsite representative for Prestige, Wang Zhaolin, told investigators that mice were “genetically engineered to catch and carry the COVID-19 virus.” Due to the conditions, the mice were euthanized.
Unsurprisingly, the facility wasn’t properly licensed and was improperly disposing of waste.
Court documents confirm Prestige never contracted with a licensed medical waste hauler to dispose of medical wastes – including the mice – per state regulations; which means from October 2022 until the lab was shuttered, Prestige was illegally disposing of medical wastes generated by the lab.
That included multiple different toxins.
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.
Charming. Health officials were quick to affirm that the materials were disposed of properly once discovered, and no ongoing threat remains — at least not from that particular lab. But the discovery certainly raises multiple questions, such as:
Why was a Chinese company making COVID-19 tests in California?
Where were these tests to be used? California public health agencies? Medical groups and hospitals?
Is the California Department of Public Health involved?
Who authorized this lab?
What does the Newsom administration know about this?
Additionally, one wonders: Who or what is Prestige Biotech? And what was their ultimate aim? Were they selling counterfeit COVID tests (and/or pregnancy tests)? A search brings up the following basic information on the company:
PRESTIGE BIOTECH INC is a Nevada Domestic Corporation filed on April 3, 2019. The company’s filing status is listed as Active and its File Number is E0153542019-3.
The Registered Agent on file for this company is Barry Zhang Cpa & Associates LLC and is located at 3528 Wynn Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89103.
The company has 2 contacts on record. The contacts are Xiuqin Yao from Las Vegas NV and Zhaolin Wang from Las Vegas NV.