Body Parts Scandal in Philly and Beyond

Thanks to Neil A. Hendershot, publisher of the PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog and Attorney at law, Goldberg Katzman, P.C., Adjunct Professor, Widener University School of Law, for first posting about this:

Charges have been filed against three funeral directors, two businessmen, and two companies for illegally harvesting body parts of the diseased that were supposed to be cremated. The charges included operating a criminal enterprise, theft, forgery, and buying prohibited body parts. Michael Mastromarino, the owner of Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS) – a company that illegally removed tissue from the deceased persons, was identified as the ringleader of the operation.

Neil writes:

On October 8, 2007, The Philadelphia Daily News reported about “a national body-parts scandal that led to thousands of charges against three funeral directors, two businessmen and two companies.”

“Survivors’ lives shaken in wake of by-parts scandal”, written by staff writers Kitty Caparella, Gloria Campisi, & Julie Shaw, focused on the emotional suffering created by perpetrators of criminal fraud in offering funeral services, but selling body parts before disposal of the remains:

Theresa Fetzer fears that when she goes to the Palmer Cemetery to visit her parents’ graves, her father’s remains may not be there.Her father, John Fetzer, who died May 1, 2005, had cirrhosis of the liver, tuberculosis, bladder cancer and hepatitis C. * * *

Fetzer said her father was cremated at one of the companies charged in the scam, Liberty Cremation, on Ruth near Somerset — just as her mother had been only five months earlier.

“They were literally throwing the ashes back in body bags that [bodies] came in,” Fetzer said she was told by a detective.

“God forbid they had four or five people, instead of cremating them individually, they would cremate them together. Now, we don’t even know if his ashes are in the box.”

The Fetzer sisters, Theresa and Debbie, were among 48 grieving families identified by a Philadelphia grand jury who were defrauded. The other 196 victims had falsified records. * * *

Continue reading here for Neil’s comprehensive coverage.

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