Biomedical Tissue Services, Ltd. (BTS) was a Fort Lee, New Jersey-based human tissue recovery firm that was shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on October 8, 2005 after its president, Dr. Michael Mastromarino, and two other employees were convicted of illegally harvesting human bones, organs, tissue and other cadaver parts from individuals awaiting cremation, for forging numerous consent forms, and for selling the illegally obtained body parts to medical companies without consent of their families.
In late 2005, the New York City Police Department investigated Dr. Michael Mastromarino and his company BTS for allegedly selling stolen human body parts. The probe was first reported by the New York Daily News in October 2005, and led to a number of exhumations, including one of a Queens, New York woman who had had many of her bones removed and replaced with PVC piping. According to government witnesses, BTS sought business relationships with a number of funeral homes in New York and Pennsylvania solely to obtain access to recently deceased people, often paying the funeral homes $1,000 or more per corpse. In nearly every case, BTS employees obtained human allograft tissue, bones, ligaments and other cadaver material by forging family consent and other donor forms without actual authorized consent, and often against the written wishes of families. BTS employees engaged in highly irregular and unsafe practices, such as allowing cadavers to deteriorate before collecting tissue and parts, not testing donor material for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and even accepting cancerous and other diseased cadavers for harvesting and selling. Under federal regulatory guidelines for the proper care and management of donated human tissue, firms are required to "screen and test donors for relevant communicable disease agents and diseases and to ensure that HCT/Ps are processed in a way that prevents communicable disease contamination and cross-contamination."
To conceal their practices, BTS employees forged a variety of the necessary certificates and even, as in the case of an exhumed Queens woman, replaced bone with piping to fool family members of the deceased. Of the numerous companies who purchased the illegally obtained body parts, or tissue, none had ever contacted the family member listed on the deceased consent forms to verify the consent, or even that the consenting person listed actually existed. The BTS scandal became international news after it was determined that the deceased Alistair Cooke, a famed British broadcaster, was among the remains that were violated and sold in New York.