By Thomas Tracy
The mastermind behind a ghoulish illegal body plundering scam is preparing to plead guilty to his crimes – a bid that could not only get him out of prison before his 62nd birthday, but could possibly turn the country’s billion-dollar bio-medical industry on its ear. As part of a plea arrangement made with the Kings County District Attorney’s office, former dentist turned bio-medical mogul Michael Mastromarino, 44, is expected to tell prosecutors everything he knows about the companies that purchased the bones and tissues he allegedly removed from thousands of corpses without the consent of the victim’s estate or their families. Most of the body lootings took place in a specially designed “cutting room” in the former Daniel George & Sons Funeral Home in Bath Beach, officials said. Mastromarino is expected to receive 18 years in prison as well as assist prosecutors in any further investigations regarding the companies to which he allegedly sold the stolen body parts to. If convicted at trial, he could have received life in prison. But while the plea deal was expected to be accepted on January 21, the case was adjourned. A new court date had not been set as this paper went to press. A sources close to the case said, however, that the plea deal is still in effect. The additional time was granted so attorneys could hammer out a few fine points, the source said. Back in 2005, Mastromarino and his henchmen were hit with a 122-count criminal indictment, charged with enterprise corruption, forgery, grand larceny, unlawful dissection and body stealing and opening graves. Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes described Mastromarino’s activities as “something out of a cheap horror movie.” “But for the thousands of relatives of the deceased whose body parts were used for profit, and the recipients of the suspect parts, this as no bad movie. This was the real thing,” Hynes said. Mastromarino and Joseph Nicelli, the former owner of the Daniel George & Sons Funeral Home, were accused of carving up the bodies of corpses before they were prepared for funeral services and selling the harvested remains to bio-medical companies with forged paperwork. All of the body parts were sold through Mastromarnino’s New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, officials said. Body parts cannot be sold. They can only be donated with the expressed, written consent of the donor before the person dies, officials said. To make everything appear official on paper, Mastromarino and Nicelli forged death certificates and other documents, making it appear that the deceased wanted his or her body parts donated. They also on occasion forged the cause of the “donor’s” death, claiming that a man who had died of cancer had died of a heart attack, which would make their harvested tissue more desirable to biomedical companies. The remains would then be used in a variety of reconstructive surgeries and operations where new bones and tissues were required. The remaining members of the team, Lee Crucetta and Christopher Aldorasi, were charged with assisting Mastromarino and Nicelli in removing the body parts and then re-stitching the corpses up, replacing the stolen bones and organs with their bloodied rags, aprons and PVC piping to make it appear that the bodies hadn’t been tampered with. Officials allege that Nicelli, who also owned a body transporting business, would be alerted about a death and pick up the body before it was taken to a local funeral home. He would then take the bodies to the cutting room at Daniel George & Sons where the body parts were removed, officials allege. Directors and employees of several borough funeral homes were allegedly involved in the scam, where they would reportedly receive $1,000 a body that Mastromarino and his crew would rifle through. Those involved have already pleaded guilty, as well as Crucetta, who received seven years in prison for his testimony. According to published reports, Mastromarino’s Biomedical Tissue Services shipped bone, skin and tendons to three publicly traded companies: Regeneration Technologies, Inc., Medical, Inc. and LifeCell Corp. Two non-profit companies also received the plundered remains. Those companies were responsible for sterilizing the harvested organs and then sell them to hospitals and other medical companies throughout the United States and Canada. Although no charges have been filed against these companies (some, however, have already been sued for their role in the criminal enterprise), they may not be happy with what Mastromarino has to say about their organizations if he takes the stand. “Let’s just say that [Mastromarino] is going to assist investigators and give any information he has about the processors and their role,” Mastromarino’s attorney Mario Gallucci told reporters last week. “It appears that the Brooklyn district attorney’s office is interested in the information that he’s providing.” Mastromarino is facing another indictment in Philadelphia. It is unclear if a similar plea deal is being hammered out with prosecutors there.