Following a months-long investigation, local and federal officials uncovered a secret biotech lab with nearly 1,000 mice and 20 potentially infectious agents, according to authorities.
Fresno County authorities discovered an " unlicensed laboratory " inside a warehouse in Reedley, California. The secret lab was owned by Prestige BioTech – a company registered in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prestige BioTech claimed it moved assets to the warehouse from the now-defunct Universal Meditech Inc.
On March 3, a code enforcement officer reportedly noticed a garden hose attached and coming out of a wall in the back of the warehouse.
Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba told KSEE , "Frankly, we knew that should not have been there and when she went to investigate, she found that there was activity or operation or something happening within that building."
The Fresno County Public Health Department obtained search warrants and made the shocking discovery on March 16.
"Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus," court documents stated. "Fresno County Public Health staff also observed blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples and serums; and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material."
According to court documents , “Certain rooms of the warehouse were found to contain several vessels of liquid and various apparatus … Fresno County Public Health staff also observed blood, tissue and other bodily fluid samples and serums; and thousands of vials of unlabeled fluids and suspected biological material.”
Fresno County Public Health Department assistant director Joe Prado said, "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."
Prado added, "There were some laboratory mice on-site at this location. 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. So, that was one example of what they shared with the purpose of the laboratory mice were being on-site."
According to KFSN-TV , "Through the process, health officials say they found the company, Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech, had refrigerators filled with chemicals, human blood, illegal COVID and pregnancy tests, and just under 1,000 mice."
Zieba said, "There was a special room that was built housing about 1,000 white lab mice."
Court documents state that hundreds of mice at the warehouse were kept in inhumane conditions, and more than 175 were found already dead. In April, the city euthanized 773 of the mice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted tests and discovered that the laboratory contained at least 20 potentially infectious agents, including coronavirus, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes, according to a Health and Human Services letter dated June 6.
Citing court documents, KTLA reported that there were "20 potentially infectious viral, bacterial, and parasitic agents were present including E. Coli, malaria, and even COVID."
Officials say that all hazardous materials were removed from the warehouse by July 7.
Zieba said of the current lab, "There are no more biologicals. There are no more mice, but they still will see us abating, 30 freezers and fridges, medical equipment, and all sorts of furniture in there. They’ll still see some activity, nothing hazardous at this point."
Prado explained, "I've never seen this in my 26-year career with the County of Fresno."
City officials contacted Xiuquin Yao – the president of Prestige Biotech.
NBC News reported, "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."
Officials reportedly could not find any California-based address for Prestige BioTech or Universal Meditech.
"The other addresses provided for identified authorized agents were either empty offices or addresses in China that could not be verified," court documents declared, acording to NBC News.
Prestige BioTech is reportedly not registered with the Fresno County Public Health Department as a medical waste generator.
Prestige BioTech is accused of not providing a plan for biological abatement and disposal of the materials.
The Epoch Times reported, "Court documents say both companies failed to provide any licensing that allows laboratory activity, nor did they provide the necessary permits for storing and importing chemical reagents from outside the United States."
A criminal investigation by federal agents is ongoing.
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