Michael Mastromarino: The Bone Snatcher
Dr. Michael Mastromarino: The Bone Snatcher
Michael Mastromarino was an oral surgeon with a successful practice in the New York City area. Things were going quite well for him until he became addicted to painkillers in the early 2000s, and as a result, ended up losing his medical license after charges were filed relating to his drug abuse. With a wife and family to support, Mastromarino used his medical training to open up a new business called Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS). The supposed business was full of donated body tissues and organs that were to be used to help those in need of transplants.
The problem with BTS was not that these body parts were being used, but that they were being used without permission from the families of the deceased. Choosing to donate your organs or other parts of your body after death is a noble act, but it is not something that every person wishes to do after they die. Dismembering bodies as if they were in a butcher shop is what takes this business to a whole different level of crime, with complete disrespect for the dead.
Mastromarino and his co-conspirators in the business had obtained body parts from nearby funeral homes, or partners in his business, masking themselves as funeral homes in order to obtain cadavers. BTS would pay around $1000 per body, dismember the bodies, take what they needed, and then return the bodies to be cremated or buried in a casket, without the families awareness or consent. On the outside, the bodies appeared normal. On the inside, however, the bodies were stuffed with replacements such as PVC.
Parts such as bones, tendons, spines, tissue, and others were butchered out and sold worldwide, and more than 10,000 patients received transplants from the illegally obtained parts. To accomplish all of this, Mastromarino forged signatures and falsified documents to hospitals, clearing the body parts from any recorded blemishes that would otherwise deem the organs as not fit to be transplanted into a patient.
However, this was not always the case. To satisfy hospital safely checks, he would make copies of the medical records and then change anything that indicated that the person was deemed unhealthy, initialing MM for the doctors approval.
He sometimes made up fake birthdays, social security numbers, and even names of doctors, claiming that they cleared the bodies to be used for transplants. In the end, many of these body parts were knowingly infected with life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, and cancer, among others, making them clearly unsuitable for a transplant.
Over the course of a few years, Mastromarino made millions of dollars selling body parts while no one questioned the validity of his documents or reports. Soon, the New York Police Department and the Federal Food and Drug Administration began investigating BTS in 2004. According to a grand jury report issued by the state of Pennsylvania, the investigation started out in November 2004 when a detective was called to investigate whether or not a funeral home had stolen money that was intended for prepaid funeral arrangements.
When the detective entered the funeral home in question, she realized immediately that one of the rooms did not look like it belonged, but it did look more like an operating room. After reading through old documents, the detective realized that there was more going on in this funeral home than the holding and cremation of bodies.
Mastromarino and his various cutters were hit with a slew of charges ranging from stealing and dismembering a body, to falsifying records. In 2008 Mastromarino accepted a plea and was sentenced to 18 to 54 years in prison. Shortly after being imprisoned, Michael Mastromarino was diagnosed with bone cancer. In 2013, it was reported that the cancer had spread through his entire body. He died in July 2013 at the age of 49.
As a result of Mastromarinos body-snatching business, the FDA has since strengthened its laws regarding tissue harvesting and donation.
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