Organlegging nurse sold diseased corpsemeat for dental implants, knees and disks

An oral surgeon-turned-nurse-turned-organlegger has been busted in Philadelphia for buying corpses from funeral directors, extracting their valuable tissues, and selling them on to be used in surgery in the US and Canada:

Mastromarino, a former oral surgeon, paid funeral directors $1,000 per corpse, then sold the parts to tissue banks, Sagel said.

The body parts fetched up to $10,000 apiece, though tissue banks resold them to hospitals for many times that amount, he said. Mastromarino is believed to have taken in $6 million to $12 million since 2001.

The body parts were used in disk replacements, knee operations and dental implants performed by unsuspecting doctors across US and Canada.


(Image: Roll Up for Your Dentures!, a Creative Commons Attribution licensed photo from Meanest Indian's Flickr stream)


  1. As someone who might get a disc replacement soon, this story horrifies me. This woman should be shot. And what the hell are funeral directors selling bodies for? Isn’t that illegal?

  2. This case was broken back in 2006. The former oral surgeon was the ringleader — he ended up with a Demerol addiction and without his medical license, so he became chief organlegger for RTI, a major tissue bank. (RTI claims they had no idea what he was up to.) Cruceta was the nurse, joining up after his wife lost her job post-9/11. The whole team would take corpses destined for the crematorium and use them for organ donations. Interestingly, one of their, er, donors was Alistair Cooke.

  3. This story has been the basis of a “Law and Order” episode. DUHM-DUHM!

    You know, you couldn’t come up with a better name for an corpse-raiding bio-fraudster than Mastromarino if you tried.

  4. Not exactly an “oral surgeon-turned-nurse-turned-organlegger” – the story talks about a nurse, Lee Cruceta, and a former oral surgeon, Michael Mastromarino. It looks like BB got these two mixed up.

    Also, neither one of these is a woman, like the first commenter assumes.

  5. I love it when you say corpsemeat. I had a (totally unnecessary) aortic angiogram four years ago and they plugged my groin incision with a hunk of former human. It works really well, but it’s weird having a piece of cadaver in your leg. I wonder if it was a voluntary donation.

  6. Wow, this sounds awfully like a “Bones” episode. I think the title was “The graft in the girl”. Creepy.

  7. #8: No, sorry. The unicorn died and . . . well, you don’t want to know what they did with her horn.

    Let’s just say Dick Cheney’s new dentures sure are golden and shiny.

  8. Was I the only one who had to Google “organlegger”? Okay, it seems obvious NOW (kind of like bootlegger, but with, umm, organs).

  9. I’m pretty sure it meant you hid booze in your boot-leg. Maybe Cory means they hid tissue in their own organs. Or had piano keys for toes. Give him a break, he lives in UK sometimes. Their English SUCKS. I expect my comment on the nanny state to be edited by BB’s own nanny state. This site used to be cool. Like when tkblog was hot.

  10. Larry Niven used the term “organlegger” in his fiction to mean just this sort of activity. I’m sure a number of writers (like Cory) would have learned it from him, if nowhere else.

  11. For me, the scariest part is that I went to parochial grammar school with this guy. I didn’t realize it was him until a friend pointed it out. You never know where people will go with their lives…

  12. Readers interested in the illegal trade in tissue, bone and other valuable body parts should check out Annie Cheney’s terrific book on the subject, “The Body Brokers:Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains” (available at the usual online outlets)… I read it last year and I just could not believe what some people get up to when they’re given the charge of human remains as part of their occupation.

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