PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The mastermind behind nearly $4 million in illegal body parts sales has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against his Philadelphia mortician partners.
Michael Mastromarino, 44, pleaded guilty to 1,353 counts, including charges of engaging in a corrupt organization, taking body parts from 244 dead people without the survivors' permission, deceptive business practices, forgery, tampering with public records and abuse of corpses. He could face up to 8,672 years in prison and fines totaling $18.6 million, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Saturday.
Mastromarino developed a scheme for obtaining body parts for use in implant surgery that grew into a big business when he allegedly partnered with undertaker-brothers Louis and Gerald Garzone. He paid them and another partner $1,000 for each corpse to be harvested before cremation.
The crime ring allegedly also put about 13,000 transplant patients at risk from body parts taken from people infected with cancer, HIV or hepatitis.
Mastromarino will get credit for accepting responsibility for his crimes, but defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. said he expected a "tough sentence" for his client. Mastromarino's guilty plea included a promise to testify at Tuesday's opening of the trial of the Garzone brothers.