Local woman pleads guilty in body broker case

Posted at 4:29 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 18:11:18-04

A Grosse Pointe Park woman pleaded guilty in court on Monday to charges relating to a body broker case.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office, Elizabeth Rathburn pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges. It is alleged she and her husband, Arthur, were involved in a scheme to distribute body parts, some of which tested positive for diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

Elizabeth and her husband were originally facing more than a dozen federal charges including Aiding and Abetting, False Statements and one count of Transportation of Hazardous Material. It is expected she will testify against Arthur at his trial.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Elizabeth admitted to providing human remains to a customer of International Biological, Inc. (IBI), and falsely represented that the remains were free of certain infectious diseases, even though she knew they had tested positive for hepatitis B and HIV.

An indictment unsealed in January, IBI would get the bodies and then dismember them to rent out for training. Both Arthur and Elizabeth knew the bodies died from infectious disease, and sometimes "obtained diseased remains from their suppliers at a reduced cost," according to the documents.

The documents also show IBI would sell to its customers, "falsely representing to those customers that the remains were free from certain infectious diseases" because the customers would not accept some infected remains.

"The scheme included (1) directly profiting from infectious remains supplied to unwitting customers in violation of contractual agreements and (2) not disclosing to customers that IBI failed to take industry standard precautions to prevent potential cross-contamination between infections and non-infectious remains," the indictment read.

IBI is accused of selling the body parts from January 2007 through December 2013.

The company also failed to take industry-standard precautions when it came to dismembering the body parts, according to the indictment.

Arthur "used a chainsaw, band saw, and reciprocating saw to dismember bodies without taking sanitary precautions," and "stored human heads by stacking them directly on top of each other without any protective barrier."

Elizabeth will be sentenced on July 18 at 2:30 p.m.