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Originally published June 11 2008

Body Parts Stolen From Corpses, Sold for Organ Transplantation

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Nine of the 11 people charged with taking part in an illegal ring that stole organs from corpses and resold them for transplant have pleaded guilty, including accused ringleader and former dentist Michael Mastromarino.

According to a federal indictment, Mastromarino and his accomplices took body parts from more than 1,000 corpses in New York state without permission from the deceased or their next of kin. Mastromarino allegedly paid funeral home owners $1,000 for each body, then forged consent papers to enable the sale of their parts by his company Biomedical Tissue Services. From selling body parts including bones, skin, arterial valves, ligaments and tendons, the conspirators made $7,000 per body.

Seven of the nine funeral home directors charged in the case had already pleaded guilty, along with Mastromarino's assistant Lee Cruceta, before Mastromarino himself decided to take a deal.

Mastromarino was "facing a daunting battle and he sees this as his best opportunity to accept responsibility and move on," said his lawyer, Mario Gallucci. He is expected to receive a sentence of 18 years in prison; Cruceta is expected to serve eight.

According to prosecutors, patients might have been exposed to disease through transplants from improperly screened organs. Nearly 600 lawsuits, many of them by patients who received the stolen organs, have been filed against the tissue processors that purchased the stolen materials and passed them on. The processors have denied that they knew anything illegal was taking place.

Gallucci implied that his client has information to the contrary, however.

"Let's just say that he is going to assist prosecutors and give any information he has about the processors and their role," he said.

Attorney Kevin Dean, working on one of the lawsuits against the processors, said that
Mastromarino's plea deal boded well for his case.

"It seems to suggest that everything that the plaintiffs have said all along is completely accurate - that the tissue processors are more involved than they want everyone to believe," Dean said.

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