Detroit-area couple in body parts business accused of fraud
A Detroit-area couple marketing body parts for medical training failed to disclose that heads and necks came from bodies infected with disease, according to a federal indictment unsealed Friday. The company obtained most of its bodies from businesses in Rosemont and Chicago, according to the indictment.
Arthur Rathburn and wife Elizabeth Rathburn of Grosse Pointe Park operated International Biological Inc., which rented out body parts for medical or dental training. They're charged in a 13-count indictment that alleges fraud and false statements.
"This alleged scheme to distribute diseased body parts not only defrauded customers from the monetary value of their contracts, but also exposed them and others to infection," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. "The alleged conduct risked the health of medical students, dental students and baggage handlers."
According to the indictment, the Rathburns obtained most of their bodies from Anatomical Services Inc. in Chicago and Biological Resource Center of Illinois, based in Rosemont.
In January 2015, the FBI spent three days executing a search warrant at the Rosemont company and a sister firm, Cremation Services in Schiller Park. According to the search warrant and 51-page affidavit kept under seal until March 2015, FBI officials had "probable cause" to believe there was evidence of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property and evidence of false statements. An attorney for Biological Resource Center of Illinois said then that "significant information" was missing from the affidavit and that the firm's "standards and practices are in line with industry standards."
Friday's indictment did not indicate that the local companies had done anything wrong. A message on the answering machine at the Rosemont office says that the firm stopped accepting donation of bodies for research last July.
The Rathburns are accused of fraud for failing to inform medical groups on at least three occasions in 2011 and 2012 about diseased body parts, including hepatitis B and HIV. Arthur Rathburn also is accused of making false statements and transporting hazardous materials. The indictment said he falsely claimed eight human heads shipped in 2012 had been embalmed, yet human blood was found in the coolers.
• Daily Herald staff writer James Kane contributed to this report.