The alleged ringleader of a body-parts scam in several states has done nothing illegal in Philadelphia - even though he is charged with 1,725 counts from abuse of corpse to fraud, said his new attorney.
A. Charles Peruto Jr. said his client, Michael Mastromarino, who owned the now-defunct Biomedical Tissue Services in Fort Lee, N.J., "paid no fee for anything."
"You can pay expenses and costs for the family, but you can't just go out and buy bodies," said Peruto, adding: "Very little money changed hands, an average of $1,000 per family. That's a small amount of money when you look at the big picture."
A Philadelphia grand jury found that Mastromarino's company had paid Louis and Gerald Garzone about $245,000 and their partner James A. McCafferty Jr. about $6,000 for the body parts.
Peruto described the money that the funeral-home operators received as earmarked for the families but apparently not passed on to them.
BTS workers dissected the remains of 244 Philadelphians without permission of the families at the Garzone Funeral Home in Kensington, and Peruto said that it was not Mastromarino's responsibility to get the permission from the families, but rather the Garzones'.
BTS later sold the tissue and body parts for $1 million to five companies, which then processed the tissue and resold it to hospitals for implants, according to the grand jury. Some of the tissue was diseased with cancer, hepatitis, syphilis and other illnesses.
"The Garzones have a real problem," he added, noting that their businesses advertised cremations after they had agreed not to.
As for the unsanitary conditions and other allegations, the expected witnesses - including those who dissected the corpses - "have reason to lie to save their own skin," said Peruto.
Yesterday, attorneys for the five defendants received evidence from Assistant District Attorney Bruce Sagel, the lead prosecutor in the case.