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Ringleader Of Body Part Scheme Apologizes

The mastermind behind a ghoulish scheme that involved looting hundreds of corpses, including that of British journalist and commentator Alistair Cooke, and selling the parts apologized Thursday to families of the victims and tissue recipients.

Michael Mastromarino, a former oral surgeon who owned Biomedical Tissue Services, told victims of the scheme at a court hearing in Brooklyn that he was sorry for the pain and grief he caused. The New Jersey company shipped bones, skin and tendons to tissue processors.

Calling him "greedy" and "heartless," family members had harsh words for Mastromarino and asked that he be sentenced to the maximum 54 years.

Stephanie Berardini, who received dental implants from a body that hadn't been properly screened for disease, said the tissue and bone will "forever be apart of me."

"The disgust factor is enormous," she said. "I will never be the same because of his actions."

Anthony Dumaine, whose father's body was plundered in the scheme, questioned the sincerity of Mastromarino's apology. "I don't feel like that was from his heart," Dumaine said outside the courtroom.

In March, Mastromarino admitted to running the macabre operation from 2001 to 2005. He pleaded guilty to charges of enterprise corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment.

Three others who worked at Mastromarino's medical firm were charged as well as funeral home directors in three states, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The bodies were carved up without permission and were not medically screened. They were sold around the country for dental implants, knee and hip replacements and other procedures. About 10,000 people received tissue supplied by BTS.

After the hearing, Mario Gallucci, Mastromarino's lawyer, said his client felt the "full force and effect of what he did" after listening to victims speak.

Mastromarino is to be sentenced June 22.