Michigan Couple Charged With Fraud For Scheme Involving Infected Human Body Parts

A Michigan couple was involved in some serious ugly business when they ran an underground body part business, renting infected human heads and other body parts for medical and dental training.

The infected body parts came from cadavers kept in a warehouse near Detroit, Michigan. The loved ones of the corpses thought they were donating the bodies to science, but instead they were donating the bodies to malicious organizations in places like Arizona and Illinois, which sold them to Arthur Rathburn and wife Elizabeth Rathburn of Grosse Pointe Park. According to the Associated Press, the Michigan couple operated the black-market business named International Biological Inc.

The Rathburns of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, butchered human bodies with chainsaws and sold or rented the diseased pieces of deceased people to medical students who had no idea what they were dealing with in terms of disease.

The Daily News reports the Michigan couple is likely headed to face a 13-count indictment which includes multiple charges of fraud, false statements, and transportation of hazardous material.

Mr. Rathburn is facing a divorce from Mrs. Rathburn, and his life just keeps getting more dismal. Now homeless and living out of his van somewhere near Detroit, Michigan, he once shipped around bloody heads in coolers, diseased with HIV, sepsis, hepatitis B, and other diseases. He once told a commercial airliner that the embalmed heads had Listerine floating around them, when in fact the Listerine was actually blood because the heads were not really embalmed.

He is accused of taking back heads he had already given to researchers and renting them out over and over again.

Michigan body parts rented
Michigan couple are accused of renting the same infected human body parts over and over again. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

The FBI long suspected the former University of Michigan morgue attendant of selling the body parts illegally, but they were finally able to raid the warehouse where the pieces of bodies were kept to charge Rathburn with crimes.

While it is not illegal to sell body parts, it is illegal to dismember bodies without the donors’ consent and then sold for profit. A person may not deceive donors and their families, who believe their bodies will only be used for medical research and not be sold. Body donation centers may not sell diseased body parts to medical researchers who are unaware that the parts are diseased, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan couple allegedly only dealt with fresh and never embalmed body parts. The body parts were often kept on ice and just thrown together in a sort of unorderly way. The couple did not use sanitary practices when dealing with the material, and heads were just stacked on top of one another without any sort of barrier between them.

“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,” she said.

medical student and cadaver
Medical students may have used infected cadaver parts when studying the human anatomy or practicing on them. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

No one knows whether anyone contracted any diseases from the cadavers.

Detroit FBI Chief David P. Gelios vowed to continue to investigate the matter, knowing it could uncover more unsavory characters and practices in Michigan and around the country.

“We recognize that thousands of donor families, medical doctors and affiliated personnel across the country have been adversely affected by these illegal acts,” Gelios said. “This investigation does not stop here. We continue to work with our state and federal partners to conduct a full and rigorous investigation.”

Mr. Rathburn was ordered to jail, and Mrs. Rathburn was out on bail in Michigan. She continues to deny that she had done anything wrong, according to her lawyer. They face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted in Michigan.

[Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images]