A Detroit couple has been arrested for allegedly buying and selling diseased body parts that came, in part, from an Illinois company, officials said.
Arthur Rathburn, 62, and his wife Elizabeth Rathburn, who own International Biological Inc., a company that rents out body parts for medical training, are accused of fraud and face 13 counts pertaining to buying, renting and transporting diseased body parts, according to a federal indictment.
The indictment alleges body parts from the Biological Resource Center of Illinois, among other sources, were being sold to International Biological, Inc. in Michigan. It accuses the Rathburns of knowingly purchasing cadavers that tested positive for Hepatitis and HIV for a “reduced cost,” then selling or renting them to “unwitting customers” across the U.S.
NBC 5 Investigates first reported last year that human cadavers were being sold on the black market, where “body brokers” make a profit off the bodies of those who wanted their remains donated to science.
Federal agents raided body donation businesses in Michigan, Arizona and Illinois in 2014. None of the owners have been charged, but Stephen Gore, owner of the Biological Resource Center of Arizona, recently pleaded guilty to running an illegal body donation center. All three businesses chose to shut down after the raids and have not re-opened.
Arthur Rathburn is accused of using a “chainsaw” or “band saw” to dismember the bodies. According to the indictment, he then stored contaminated human heads with non-diseased heads by “stacking them directly on top of each other.”
The couple is alleged to have then shipped these diseased body parts through the “mail” and on “commercial flights.”
On one occasion eight diseased human heads were “packaged in trash bags” and put in “camping coolers” and shipped on a Delta cargo plane, the indictment claims. When blood was discovered, Rathburn allegedly told law enforcement the liquid was in fact “Listerine.”
Elizabeth Rathburn has posted bond and her attorney told NBC5 Investigates she maintains her innocence. Arthur Rathburn’s initial appearance has been postponed until Tuesday. The two attorneys representing the owners of Biological Resource of Illinois declined to comment.