CEO arrested in Reedley lab investigation

Reedley’s Nicole Zieba and Jesalyn Harper work with the FDA in sting operation to nab a fugitive executive involved in the illegally-operated lab found on I Street

Shot looking above the fence and shows the showroom entrance. (Kenny Goodman)
Shot looking above the fence and shows the showroom entrance. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published October 19, 2023  • 
4:30 pm

REEDLEY – Outside of the warehouse at 850 I Street in Reedley, where Universal Meditech, Inc. (UMI) secretly ran its lab from December 2022 until March of this year, federal authorities arrested a UMI executive on charges of manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices, as well as for making false statements to investigators.

On Oct. 19, Jesse Zhu, a former Clovis resident – who also goes by the names Jia Bei Zhu, Qiang He and his recent name David He – was taken in as part of a sting operation orchestrated by Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba, Reedley Code Enforcement Officer Jesalyn Harper and five members of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) criminal division.

Zhu, who according to his British Columbia driver’s license is 62, was arrested just after noon in front of the warehouse at 850 I Street. During his arrest, FDA agents placed him on the ground. Zieba said he was transported to Reedley Adventist Hospital.

“He (Zhu) was taken there out of an abundance of caution,” Zieba said. “He very quickly then went off to Fresno County Jail. He will spend the night there. He’ll be picked up by federal marshals in the morning and arraigned in federal court.”


“This was a sting,” said Zieba. She said it was UMI’s $50 million dollar claim against Fresno County and its $30 million claim against Reedley that set the operation in motion.

Zieba and Harper confirmed that regular communication with Zhu stopped after the story of the illegal lab went viral in the media. “Frankly, the claim UMI levied gave us a door in to bring him to Reedley,” said Zieba. According to Zieba, the FDA criminal division had been working on trying to arrest Zhu for a while. She said she only learned of UMI’s claim against the county after she ran into Supervisor Buddy Mendes at the Reedley Fiesta parade on Saturday. “I started thinking about it (luring him) over the weekend,” she said. “When our claim came in on Monday, I thought, ‘You know, we can try this.’”


Zieba and Harper said communication with Zhu was conducted entirely via email.

“Which was good,” Harper said. “They (emails) can be shared with other agencies and departments as evidence.”

Harper emailed Zhu about a possible meeting. She said he was conducive to the idea because he had concerns about remaining UMI property stored in the warehouse. According to Harper, as of report, the warehouse still contains UMI chemicals – which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will dispose of – and illegal medical devices, which are the responsibility of the state.

In her emails, Harper said she was clear to Zhu that he would not be entering the premises.

“I think he was hoping he’d get inside the building and see what was remaining inside,” said Harper. She added that Zhu was the last UMI representative to visit the site since May. At minimum, she said Zhu likely wanted to check the building structure and to ensure the site was properly secured.


Harper said He arrived at exactly 11 a.m., the arranged time for the meeting. He parked his car in the building’s alcove.

“We agreed to meet David in the Alcove, I said Nicole was coming along as city manager to be part of the situation,” Harper said. She said the FDA agents parked their vehicles down the street.

He had never met Zieba; Harper introduced her. The FDA agents remained in their vehicles and observed the trio as they spoke in the alcove. Harper said He was on the premises for 30 to 40 minutes.

“He pulled up, we exchanged conversation,” Harper said. “I remember saying, ‘Hi, David. Thank you for meeting with us.’ I introduced Nicole. This was all done to buy time so the FDA agents could identify him.”

As Harper and Zieba chatted up He, the agents pulled up and blocked in his vehicle.

“We backed up,” said Zieba. “They pulled up their vehicles. They got out, fully outfitted, ballistic vests, guns drawn – at me, as well, because I am standing there with David. It was a regular arrest; ‘hands on your head’.”


Zieba said as city manager, she has been involved in arrests. But this one was personal.

“He put this community through so much trauma,” she said. “He fled Canada in 2014 and came to the U.S. – never served his time in Canada. Never paid the $330 million judgment against him in Canada. He’s been operating in our country since then. My heart was pumping because of that.”

Zhu will be arraigned in federal court Friday morning. According to the 23-page criminal complaint, Zhu faces a myriad of charges, including lying to federal authorities, violating interstate commerce regulations and distributing misbranded COVID test kits.

Darren Fraser