BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 18:03 GMT
Body-snatching ring boss 'guilty'
Michael Mastromarino
Thousands were given body parts from Michael Mastromarino's ring
The head of a US body-snatching ring accused of stealing the parts of around 1,000 people has pleaded guilty, after striking a deal with prosecutors.

Medical supplies boss Michael Mastromarino made millions from removing body parts from corpses and selling them for transplant illegally.

One of the bodies plundered was that of famous BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke.

Thousands of people received body part transplants supplied by Mastromarino's firm, Biomedical Tissue Services.

The New Jersey company shipped bones, skin and tendons to tissue-processing companies such as Regeneration Technologies, LifeCell Corp and Tutogen Medical, which are in turn facing hundreds of civil lawsuits.

Cover up

The 44-year-old former oral surgeon pleaded guilty to one count of enterprise corruption, nine counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, and four counts of body stealing.

They all worked together to make this sham business work, grow and make money. It was all about the greed. The greed spiralled out of control
Patricia McNeill
Assistant district attorney

He said he did not obtain consent from relatives, did not check for infectious diseases and forged documents to cover up the operations of his scheme which ran from 2001 to 2005.

Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill said Mastromarino showed "a depraved indifference to human life" and that his actions led to the "grave risk of death to another person".

He will also have to return the more than $4.6m (2.1m) he and his associates made from the tissue-harvesting operation.

"They all worked together to make this sham business work, grow and make money. It was all about the greed. The greed spiralled out of control," Ms McNeill added.

The bones of Alistair Cooke, the presenter of the BBC's Letter From America, were sold for $11,000 (5,400) after he died from cancer in New York in 2004.

Mastromarino will be sentenced to between 18 and 54 years in jail in May.

He reached the plea deal earlier this year, although it nearly fell apart after prosecutors discovered the extent of his crimes.



SEE ALSO
Plea deal in US body parts case
16 Jan 08 |  Americas
Seven charged over US bones theft
17 May 07 |  Americas
US undertakers admit corpse scam
19 Oct 06 |  Americas
Alistair Cooke's bones 'stolen'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas

RELATED BBC LINKS



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific