Ringleader of body parts scheme pleads guilty

BROOKLYN - The mastermind of a scheme to plunder hundreds of corpses from Brooklyn and Northeast funeral homes for their body parts pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Michael Mastromarino, a 44-year-old former oral surgeon, pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption, body stealing, grand larceny and forgery from the criminal enterprise that netted him $4.68 million from 2001 to 2005.

Mastromarino, Joseph Nicelli, Christopher Aldorasi and Lee Cruceta allegedly forged consent forms to take tissue from the bodies. Mastromarino was the owner of New Jersey-based Biomedical Tissue Services, which shipped bones, skin and tendons to tissue processors such as Regeneration Technologies Inc., LifeCell Corp. and Tutogen Medical Inc. About 10,000 people received tissue supplied by BTS.

Those companies face hundreds of civil lawsuits from people who received the tissue ? some of it allegedly diseased ? in transplants and from relatives of loved ones whose body parts were taken without permission.

"What I can say is that this wasn't only an assault on my dad, but an assault on the living," Karen Delre, whose father was victimized in death, said outside of court. "We live with a life sentence of what they did to our father."

The looted bodies included that of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke. Authorities said the group replaced body parts with PVC pipe for open-casket wakes.

Mastromarino faces 18 to 54 years in prison and is expected to be sentenced in about two months. He is also being forced to forfeit the $4.68 million he made in the scheme.

AP wire reports contributed to this story.

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