Body parts mastermind off to jail

June 27, 2008 8:17:17 PM PDT
The mastermind behind a multimillion dollar scheme to loot hundreds of corpses and sell bone and tissue for transplants was sentenced Friday to 18 to 54 years in prison after apologizing to the grieving survivors. "I'm sorry for all the emotional pain I've caused," Michael Mastromarino told a Brooklyn judge in a soft voice before being led to jail.

Mastromarino, 44, a former oral surgeon who owned New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of enterprise corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors had alleged he was the brains behind a macabre plot hatched in 2001 to carve up bodies - including that of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke - without permission and or proper medical screening. The body parts were sold around the country for dental implants, knee and hip replacements and other procedures.

Authorities say about 10,000 people received parts supplied by BTS. Some now claim they were infected by the tainted tissue, including an Ohio mother of three who appeared in court on Friday to demand a harsh sentence for Mastromarino.

"Mr. Mastromarino's sick, disgusting, appalling actions, all in the name of greed, have devastated my family to the point where we can never recover," said Danya Ryan, 44, who claims she contracted hepatitis during a back surgery involving BTS bone.

Three others who worked with Mastromarino also were charged in the case, as were funeral home directors in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Chris Aldorasi, who worked as a so-called cutter for Mastromarino, was sentenced earlier this month to nine to 27 years in prison. At a trial where he was found guilty of enterprise corruption and other criminal counts, Cooke's daughter testified that she had never spoken to BTS about harvesting her father's body.

"Definitely not," said Susan Cooke Kittredge, 59, who lives in Vermont, when asked if she had given permission. "My father would have been against that."

Another cutter, Lee Cruceta, who pleaded guilty and testified against Aldorasi, is facing up to 20 years in prison. The fourth codefendant's case is still pending.

Mario Gallucci, Mastromarino's lawyer, said his client could be eligible for parole in about 15 years.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-06-27-08 1859EDT