Reuters.com reports that a Detroit body broker was convicted of fraud for selling medical researchers diseased human remains. Arthur Rathburn was subject to a growing federal investigation into the market for body parts in the U.S. In 2013, agents raided his offices and found several remains frozen together.
Currently, U.S. laws only regulate organs which are intended for transplants, but the selling of bodies and parts for research is largely unregulated and legal. Rathburn was convicted of fraud because he was selling parts to customers that were infected with hepatitis and HIV.
Rathburn’s ex-wife, Elizabeth, testified in court that their business bought human remains from companies which encouraged donating bodies to scientific research and education. Infected remains were purchased in an effort to increase profits, as they are frequently sold at a discount to dealers.
Elizabeth pleaded guilty to fraud and is expected to serve four to 10 months in prison. Arthur faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing hearings for both of them are expected to take place this spring.
Arthur Rathburn was convicted of seven counts of fraud but acquitted for two others. His defense attorneys claimed the cases should have been filed in civil versus criminal court because the disputes were based on contracts between Rathburn and his clients, and no illegal activity took place.
During the raid of his warehouse, four fetuses were found; it is illegal to sell them. It is unknown how they were acquired. During Reuters’ coverage of the developing story last year, a reporter was able to purchase a spine and two human heads for $900 from a broker in Tennessee.
Steve Gore, another body broker from Phoenix, testified against Rathburn at trial and has also pleaded guilty to fraud. Another Reuters story outlined how Gore’s employees dismembered bodies with construction saws. Gore told the jury that he had no regulations to guide him in his business, and he used construction saws instead of medical instruments because they were effective and cheaper.
*Photo credit Reuters/Peter Yates