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Press Release

Grosse Pointe Park Man Sentenced on Fraud Scheme Involving Distribution of Infectious Human Remains

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

A Grosse Pointe Park resident was sentenced today to 108 months in federal prison after having been convicted earlier this year by a jury on charges of wire fraud, transportation of hazardous material, and false statements in a scheme involving the distribution of body parts, some that tested positive for diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.                             

Schneider was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division; Regional Special Agent-in-Charge Thomas J. Ullom, U.S. Department of Transportation - Office of Inspector General; Officer in Charge Elizabeth Harton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Global Migration & Quarantine and  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Sentenced was Arthur Rathburn, 63.  Rathburn was convicted on 7 of the 9 wire fraud counts and the count alleging illegal transportation of hazardous material. He was acquitted of the false statement count.

“We hope this sentence brings closure to the victims of Arthur Rathburn,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.  “Rathburn’s disgraceful conduct not only put the health of innocent people at risk, he showed a complete lack of regard for the donors and their families, who are all victims.”

“Arthur Rathburn carried out a long term, complex scheme to increase his personal profits, showing little respect to the donors and  risking the welfare of those in the medical and dental community relying on human remains free from hepatitis, HIV, and other dangerous diseases,” said Timothy R. Slater, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit FBI. “His sentence represents the FBI’s commitment to partner with our federal and state colleagues in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Arizona Attorney General, to ensure the community is protected from fraudulent actions, regardless of how they are undertaken and irrespective of the sophistication of the fraud.  The FBI continues to work collectively across the country to find and bring those profiteering in the anatomical donation industry to justice.” 

According to evidence presented during the two-week trial, Arthur Rathburn was the owner and operator of International Biological, Inc. (“IBI”).  IBI’s primary function was renting human body parts, such as heads and torsos, to customers who used the remains for medical or dental training.   Rathburn engineered a scheme to defraud in which IBI obtained donated bodies and body parts from suppliers, which IBI would then typically dismember and rent out to customers for medical or dental training.  Rathburn knew that the donors of a number of these bodies had died of an infectious disease, or that the bodies had tested positive for an infectious disease.  IBI sometimes obtained diseased remains from their suppliers at a reduced cost, due to the fact that end users of human remains generally reject infectious bodies and body parts for use in medical or dental training.

It was part of the scheme that Rathburn would provide human remains to IBI’s customers, falsely representing to those customers that the remains were free of certain infectious diseases.  Rathburn was aware that IBI’s customers would not accept remains infected with certain diseases.  The scheme included directly profiting from infectious remains supplied to unwitting customers in violation of contractual agreements and failing to disclose to customers that IBI ignored industry standard precautions to prevent potential cross-contamination between infectious and non-infectious remains.

Evidence further demonstrated that Arthur Rathburn willfully caused to be delivered hazardous material regulated by the Department of Transportation, namely a human head of an individual known to have died from bacterial sepsis and aspiration pneumonia, to Delta Cargo, an air carrier, for transportation in air commerce in violation of federal regulations.  In violation of these regulations, the human head was packaged in a trash bag placed within a camping cooler.  Seven other human heads were also part of the shipment and packed in the same manner.  Large quantities of liquid blood were found within the coolers.  

The investigation in this case was handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General with support from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations. Special thanks are also due to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office for their critical assistance.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John K. Neal and Timothy J. Wyse.

Updated May 22, 2018