The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

August 29, 2008

Man who plundered body parts for profit pleads guilty

From staff reports

news@joplinglobe.com

A man who made millions of dollars by plundering hundreds of bodies sent to funeral homes and selling their parts and tissues to medical companies pleaded guilty Friday to multiple charges that could send him to prison for life.

Michael Mastromarino, 44, of Fort Lee, N.J., pleaded guilty to hundreds of counts of abusing corpses, forgery, theft and other allegations stemming from an operation authorities say he ran with three Philadelphia funeral directors.

About 10,000 people received tissue supplied by Mastromarino’s company, New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, authorities said.

In 2006, 30 patients at St. John’s Regional Medical Center and one from Freeman Hospital West were notified that they might have received a bone or tissue transplant that was not fully tested for use in transplant patients, and they had to be tested for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis.

The bones and tissues were harvested from hundreds of cadavers by Biomedical Tissue Services of Fort Lee, N.J. In many cases, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the families of the deceased did not know the tissues and bones were being harvested.

BTS sold its product to five companies. Two of the companies, Life Cell Corp., of New Jersey, and Regeneration Technologies, of Florida, provided bones and tissues to St. John’s and Freeman.

Mastromarino made millions of dollars off the scam, which also involved funeral homes in New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. His attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., described the scheme as driven by greed — one that was hard to stop because it was so lucrative.

“You just keep taking the money,” Peruto said after the court hearing Friday.

The bodies, including that of “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke, were carved up without permission and were not medically screened. They were sold around the country for dental implants, knee and hip replacements and other procedures.

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