Cadaver dealer gets 9 years for selling diseased body parts

Image 1 of 2

A cadaver dealer from Grosse Pointe was sentenced Tuesday to 9 years in prison after selling diseased body parts to medical officials.

Arthur Rathburn is expected to serve 6 years, 10 months in prison after receiving a 9-year sentence, with credit for 2 years and 2 months already served.

In January, Rathburn was found guilty of selling body parts with HIV and hepatitis A, B and C to doctors and dentists for medical research. His Detroit company, International Biological Inc., was raided in December 2013. The warehouse in unsanitary conditions, the FBI found body parts in coolers, paint cans and plastic containers. They found blood stains on the floor and piles of dead flies. Heads and body parts were frozen together.

A juror who saw pictures asked for counseling and was eventually excused.

The sale of human remains is unusual but mostly legal, especially when body parts are used for medical training. But Rathburn was accused of failing to disclose that the parts had tested positive for diseases.

No one was infected, but the government says Rathburn's customers and airport employees were at risk. In response, Rathburn's lawyers say his business contracts stated that a lack of disease wasn't guaranteed.

Rathburn spoke for nearly an hour Tuesday but conceded nothing. He said his Detroit lab was “perfect,” and he denied using a chain saw to cut bodies.

“We have 10,000 diseases in this world. We know how to treat 500 of them. The rest need to be studied,” Rathburn told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.

Rathburn had been in custody for two years after his bond was revoked while awaiting trial. Prosecutors had been seeking a 14-year prison sentence.

Back in January during his trial, his ex-wife testified that the couple lied about the diseased parts because they didn't want to lose business.

Elizabeth Rathburn, who pleaded guilty to fraud, told jurors that Arthur Rathburn assured her that he could make viruses inactive through embalming.

Stephen Gore, owner of Arizona-based Biological Resource Center, says Arthur Rathburn ordered cheaper infected body parts from him so he could make more money.

Arthur Rathburn's lawyer says the case should have been treated as a contract dispute, not a crime.

The Rathburns split up after they were charged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.