Nurse Lee Cruceta in Philadelphia has admitted to cutting out body parts from corpses to sell on the illegal body part market — a crime that included harvesting material from the corpse of “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke, who died in 2004. The guilty plea includes a glimpse into the lucrative market for body looting.
According to authorities, Cruceta was the “lead cutter” in a large body looting operation. He has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, taking part in a corrupt organization, abuse of a corpse and 244 counts each of theft and forgery — as well as related state crimes. He faces a maximum of 20 years.
This bizarre conspiracy has already netted various New York funeral directors and its accused ringleader Michael Mastromarino. Mastromarino was a former oral surgeon.
Funeral directors were paid $1000 for each corpse and each body part would be sold for as much as $10,000 a piece. Mastromarino reportedly took in $6 million to $12 million since 2001.
Various civil lawsuit have been filed. The common law has long treated the abuse of corpses as a special category of liability. Such conduct routinely results in findings of intentional or negligence infliction of emotional distress. There have been a recent increase in such cases. Click here, here, and here.
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