Your Lying Eyes

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23 December 2005

Italian-Americans - They Still Got It!

With the news this past week that the last of the great mafia dons, Vincente "the Chin" Gigante, died in prison, one is tempted to lament the passing of the great crime tradition that Italian immigrants forged in this country. Before the Mafia, crime in America had grown stale. The frontier-desperado so stirringly embodied in Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Butch and Sundance had grown old with Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd in the early 30's.
But with their secret initiations, code of honor, and flair for the dramatic, the newcomers from Sicily injected some much needed vibrancy into the underworld. Anyone who has seen Goodfellas knows how amazingly creative Italian-American mobsters were at breaking the law and eliminating troublesome people. But all good things must come to an end and the Mafia is today a mere shell of its former self.
But the embers of criminal genius burn deep. There's a story out that NYC investigators are looking into an alleged body-part theft ring involving funeral parlors.
A grand jury in Brooklyn has been hearing evidence against at least a half dozen funeral homes in the borough and against Biomedical Tissue Services that they illegally profited by conspiring to sell stolen body parts. Authorities say indictments could be handed up early next year.
One celebrity's remains fell victim to the scam:
Authorities confirmed this week that investigators contacted Alistair Cooke's family after finding paperwork indicating his bones had been removed and sold by a Fort Lee, N.J., tissue bank, Biomedical Tissue Services, before he was cremated. Cooke...died from cancer last year at 95 in Manhattan...someone had falsified documents by changing his cause of death to heart attack, and by lowering his age to 85. Harvesting bones from cancer patients violates rules by the Food and Drug Administration.
But here's the part that tipped me off to this being no two-bit criminal enterprize:
The probe has generated other gruesome images. In one instance, the corpse of a Queens grandmother that investigators exhumed last month had nearly all the bones removed below the waist and replaced with PVC pipes.
So I had to read on to find out a little more about just who's behind this bizarre scheme, and I was not disappointed:
Authorities say the Brooklyn case stems from a deal struck between a dentist who started Biomedical Tissue Services, Michael Mastromarino, 42, of Fort Lee, and Joseph Nicelli, 49, an embalmer and funeral parlor operator from Staten Island. Investigators suspect Nicelli helped secure access to tissue and bones from funeral directors for $500 to $1,000 a body. Mastromarino allegedly would remove the body parts, then ship them to processors paying thousands of dollars per order.
It's gratifying to know that this kind of vibrant, illicit behavior has not been completely extinguished in the Italian-American community.


Anonymous jth said...

Not fer nutin, but PVC pipe? What happened to good old fashioned lead?

December 27, 2005 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I happen to be one of the people who received a potentially contaminated bone graft from BTS.
Soooooo, I've been doing some investigating. As strange as it may seem, the practice of using PVC to replace bone for viewing purposes is common. However, not having family consent, and not knowing the medical history of a donor is not! One artical I read said the collecters took the extra precaution of looking for track marks to weed out drug addicts. With that kind of thoughtful inquiry
who needs an AIDs test?

February 25, 2006 5:31 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Wow - thanks for the share - I sure hope your graft works out, the odds are probably pretty good the tissue was fine, especially with the "thoughtful" precautions these guys employed - good to see you've kept your sense of humor!

February 25, 2006 8:15 AM  

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