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Reedley Lab Suspect Appears in Court Bandaged, Doesn't Enter Plea
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 6 months ago on
October 21, 2023

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A Chinese national accused of operating an illegal biolab in Reedley made a remote video appearance in a Fresno federal courthouse with a bandaged face Friday afternoon.

In addition to the mystery of why he was bandaged, there were questions about his real name.

Listed in the federal court record as Jia Bei Zhu, he appeared via video conference in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Oberto. When asked for his name, he gave one of his known aliases, David He (pronounced “huh”).

The Department of Justice says he also has aliases of Jesse Zhu and Qiang He.

Zhu did not enter a plea, as he is still retaining an attorney. Federal Defender Eric Kersten appeared in court but told Oberto several times he was doing it as a courtesy to the court and was not retained by the defendant.

Kersten asked Oberto not to make a true name finding, and she agreed.

Zhu is charged with manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices, which carries a three-year jail sentence and/or $10,000 fine; and making false statements to a U.S. agency, which carries a five-year sentence and/or $250,000 fine.

Arrested in Sting Operation

He was arrested Thursday as part of a sting operation by federal authorities in Reedley.

The suspect, through an interpreter, asked if he could ask Oberto questions. She advised the suspect that anything he said could be used against him. Zhu headed the advice and withdrew his inquiries.

Oberto continued the arraignment until Tuesday at 2 p.m., without setting bail. Fresno County jail records list him as 59-year-old David He, although in the DOJ news release announcing his arrest, he is listed as 62 years old.

Facial Bandages

Zhu appeared from what looked like a jail facility, wearing a red jumpsuit. He also had unexplained bandages on his nose and forehead.

Federal prosecutors Joseph Barton and Arelis Clemente offered no comment as they walked out of court. The county jail had no immediate explanation. A DOJ spokeswoman said she was “not sure what happened.”

Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba appeared in court Friday as an observer. She greeted Zhu on Thursday morning right before he was arrested.

“When I shook his hand, there were no bandages,” Zieba said.

Agents with the federal Food and Drug Administration made the arrest. A message left by GV Wire with the FDA’s Los Angeles field office was not returned.

However, GV Wire has learned that between his 11:15 a.m. arrest and 1:53 p.m. jail booking, there was a brief stop at a hospital.

Zieba was joined in court by Reedley code enforcement officer Jesalyn Harper, who made the initial discovery of the lab in December 2022.

“Normally … you wouldn’t find us at an arraignment hearing, but this case is so unique. This one is rather personal for me. And so, I want to make sure that we know what’s happening,” Zieba said after court.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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