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.
Reedley city manager Nicole Zieba on the first court appearance of Jia Bei Zhu aka David He. He did not enter a plea. pic.twitter.com/X0hwmfHhMV
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) October 20, 2023
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.