Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Judge sentences three US men who plundered corpses

AP , PHILADELPHIA

Three men who conspired to plunder corpses and sell the sometimes diseased body parts were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for what victims said was a gruesome, greedy scheme that violated basic principles of trust and human decency.

In New Jersey, meanwhile, a federal judge ruled against some of the patients who sued after receiving some of the body parts, saying they had failed to establish grounds to sue.

The mastermind of the scheme, Michael Mastromarino, was sentenced to 25 to 58 years in prison. Brothers Louis and Gerald Garzone, who provided bodies from a pair of funeral homes and a crematorium they ran in Philadelphia, will serve eight to 20 years.

Mastromarino previously was sentenced to 18 to 54 years for running the scam in New York.

His two sentences will run concurrently.

The scandal dates to February 2006, when Mastromarino — then owner of Fort Lee, New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services — and others were accused of cutting up corpses from funeral homes in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The parts were sold and used in about 10,000 surgical procedures performed by unsuspecting doctors in the US and Canada.

“Words cannot express how sorry I am,” Mastromarino told the court in a wavering voice.

He called his crimes “nothing less than disgusting and embarrassing” and broke into tears.

Litigation arising from BTS’ criminal enterprise was consolidated and assigned to the US District Court in Newark, New Jersey. There are about 353 federal cases under consideration, the court said, plus cases pending in state courts.

The companies that bought the tissue said they did not know it was obtained illegally and that there was no evidence the transplanted tissue made anyone ill.

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