Detroit — The Detroit Medical Center hospital system unknowingly used hepatitis-infected human remains in training courses, a federal criminal court filing says.
Body broker Arthur Rathbun of Grosse Pointe Park is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of fraud for renting diseased human remains to unwitting customers.
Federal investigators say Rathburn wasn’t alone in his deception.
Evidence collected during Rathburn’s prosecution, including severed heads, fetuses, limbs, torsos, and accompanying documents, led the FBI to his supplier, the Biological Resource Center of Illinois, operated by Donald Green Sr., an elected Village of Rosemont, Illinois parks commissioner, and his son, Donald Green II.
The father-son duo also operated a crematorium in Schiller Park, Illinois, rented offices in the Village of Rosemont municipal building and were affiliated with the Biological Resource Center of Arizona.
The FBI raided Rathburn’s Detroit warehouse, where he stored his inventory of butchered bodies, in December 2013. Over the next two years, the FBI raided and shut down the Biological Resource Center locations in Illinois and Arizona.
The Biological Resource Center of Illinois is a company that profited by harvesting and renting out or selling human remains received from people who, upon death, donated their cadavers to science.
While the practice of dismembering and brokering body parts isn’t illegal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan says the Biological Resource Center of Illinois intentionally withheld from customers test results that indicated human remains tested positive for infections diseases.
Greene Sr. “falsely reported to customers on eight occasions between 2008 and 2014 that remains they received tested negative for specified infectious diseases,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in court documents.
Among the records seized by the FBI was “an invoice dated Aug. 27, 2013, sent via email to the Detroit Medical Center,” the indictment says. “This invoice charged the DMC’s sports medicine department for human remains provided to support five bioskills labs taking place between Aug. 28, 2013 and Oct. 23, 2013.
“Unknown to the DMC, a specimen provided by (Biological Resource Center of Illinois) for these labs was sourced from remains that previously tested positive for hepatitis.”
The DMC in a prepared statement said it “assisted law enforcement in its investigation in 2017” and “confirmed at the time that the cadaver parts were used for educational purposes only and not used for patient care.”
Greene Sr. is charged with a count of wire fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. His son is charged with misprision of a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison, for intentionally concealing or failing to report a crime.
The charges against the Greenes were filed in an “information,” meaning they waived a grand jury review and a plea deal is likely in the works.
So far, Arthur Rathburn, who operated his business for years with the help of his ex-wife, Elizabeth Rathburn, is the only person to serve prison time in connection with the multi-state body broker investigation.
Elizabeth Rathburn pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting wire fraud and was sentenced to probation.
Stephen Gore, who operated the Biological Resource Center of Arizona, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a state charge of fraud and was sentenced to probation as part of a plea deal that required him to testify against Rathburn.
MLive was unable to reach Donald Greene Sr. or his son for comment.
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