By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The doctor convicted of masterminding a ghoulish scheme to harvest the bones and organs of deceased people in order to sell them at high prices is dying of bone cancer in prison, according to a report in the New York Daily News.
The Daily News reported on April 1 that Dr. Michael Mastromarino, 49, is near death in an upstate New York prison. Mastromarino, a Catholic, was given Last Rites by a priest two weeks ago. The Brooklyn Eagle reported extensively on the scheme starting in 2005, as the scandle broke and then grew to encompass multiple funeral homes and transplants across the country.
Mastromarino, an oral surgeon, was convicted in 2006 of illegally removing bones and organs from dead people without permission from the families of the deceased and then selling the body parts to companies who provided them to hospitals for transplants. He was sentenced to serve 18 to 54 years in prison.
Alistair Cooke, the famous British journalist and television personality who hosted “Masterpiece Theater” on PBS and who died in 2004, was among the deceased people whose remains were illegally dissected by Mastromarino. Cooke's daughter told the Eagle that she was "haunted by the gruesome news" that her father’s body was illegally sold by a funeral home to a tissue-processing plant.
Some of the illegal dissections took place in a back room at the now-defunct Daniel George and Son Funeral Home on Bath Avenue in Bensonhurst, authorities said. The original owners of Daniel George and Son had sold their funeral business to proprietors and were not involved in the illegal activity, even though the funeral home still carried the George name, according to authorities.
Many of the deceased people whose remains were violated by Mastromarino had died of AIDS, cancer, and other diseases, yet the oral surgeon and his co-conspirators presented the organs for sale as if they were disease-free.
Mastromarino, who owned and operated a private company called Biomedical Tissue Services, made millions of dollars with his business, authorities said. Biomedical Tissue Services was shut down by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005.
Prior to that ordered shutdown, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes had begun investigating Mastromarino and his company for selling stolen body parts. As a result of the probe, the remains of dozens of people were exhumed for examination. The results were shocking. In many cases, Mastromarino had removed bones and replaced them with piping, authorities said.
Mastromarino’s company had the cooperation of several funeral homes in New York and Pennsylvania, whose owners would funnel bodies to the oral surgeon. Mastromarino’s company would pay funeral homes $1,000 a corpse, authorities said.
Funeral home owners would often forge documents to make it appear as if the families of the deceased had given permission to have the organs removed.
The patients who received diseased body parts still live in fear that they will develop life-threatening illnesses, authorities said.
After the ghoulish scheme was uncovered, hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Mastromarino and Biomedical Tissue Services by the families of the deceased people whose remains had been violated.
Lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, who represents nearly two dozen of Mastromarino’s victims, told the Daily News that he had little sympathy for the now dying convicted man.
“It doesn’t change the fact that what he did when he was alive horribly affected the lives of many families, victims and individuals who now fear illness for the rest of their lives,” Rubenstein told the Daily News.