Tue, Nov 01, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Inquiry launched into alleged sale of human organs

MACABRE An embalmer is being investigated after claims that he illegally removed body parts and passed them on to a dentist, who sold the tissue to processing firms

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Last year, George sued Nicelli, accusing him of failing to make payments on the purchase of the funeral home, and Nicelli responded that George had failed to disclose relevant information about the business.

The lawsuit also named as a defendant a funeral home company controlled by Robert Nelms and his wife, Debora Johnson. Nelms, who was operating the Bensonhurst funeral home, said in court papers that although he was renting the property he was not responsible for any of the obligations of the business sale agreement.

Last year, Nelms and Johnson approached the police and prosecutors and accused Nicelli of fraudulent dealings at the funeral home, investigators and their lawyer said. Their first assertion was that customers had tried to redeem prepaid funeral plans for which they could find no records.

In questioning, a law enforcement official said, Johnson mentioned finding bodies where plastic pipe appeared to have been inserted under clothing in place of bones, saying: "There's a lot of funny things going on."

Investigators began seeking to determine whether death records had been altered. The police are interviewing relatives of the deceased, and the Department of Investigation is overseeing a review of records from the medical examiner's office, law enforcement officials said. Investigators are considering exhuming graves for evidence.

Richard Medina, a lawyer for Nicelli, said that he had not been told his client was a target of any investigation.

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